- The Washington Times - Monday, January 22, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

An AIDS organization sued Pfizer Inc. yesterday over ads the group says encourage use of Viagra as a party drug. The group said recreational use of the drug furthers the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, calls Pfizer’s ads for the impotence drug false and misleading. The suit echoes charges made in an ad campaign announced by the group last month.

Separately, Pfizer said yesterday after releasing fourth-quarter financial results that it would cut 10,000 jobs in seeking to trim its annual costs by $2 billion by 2008 amid fierce competition from generic drugs.

The nonprofit AIDS group contends that the marketing of Viagra has fostered an increase in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Studies have found the drug is used — illegally — in conjunction with crystal methamphetamine to form a party drug “cocktail.”

While crystal meth can heighten sexual desire, it also can impair the ability to have an erection, said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “In order to satisfy that heightened desire, you have to take Viagra,” Mr. Weinstein told reporters.

Pfizer denied it promotes the recreational use of its highly successful drug. In 2005, Pfizer had $860 million in U.S. Viagra sales, according to IMS Health Inc.

The suit seeks to halt the New York company from running ads such as those that have promoted the drug’s use on New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl Sunday, said Tom Myers, the AIDS group’s legal counsel. The ads, which included tag lines such as “Be this Sunday’s MVP” encourage recreational use, the group said.

The suit also seeks to force Pfizer to undertake a public information campaign on the dangers of misusing and abusing the prescription drug. Furthermore, it seeks an unspecified amount to cover an increase in treatment costs borne by the nonprofit group, which runs free treatment clinics.

Pfizer said it and a company foundation already support AIDS prevention efforts, including a three-year, $6 million project undertaken in 2003 in nine Southern states.

The advertisements in question featured younger-looking men than did earlier Viagra ads that used retired Sen. Bob Dole, then in his 70s, as a pitchman.

Mr. Myers said the newer ads imply the drug is meant to enhance the sexual experience and not to treat a medical condition.

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