- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 5, 2004

The number of younger men using the prescription drug Viagra has tripled since it entered the market in 1998, according to a study released yesterday in the International Journal of Impotence Research.

Conducted by the pharmacy-benefit-management company Express Scripts, the study is the first to report trends in the use of Viagra. Researchers reviewed prescription-claim information from 1998 to 2002 of a random, nationwide sample of more than 5 million insured adults.

According to the study, men between 18 and 45 were the fastest-growing group of users of Viagra, or its generic equivalent, with an increase of 312 percent. In addition, the number of men using the drug between 46 and 55 increased 216 percent.

“We hypothesized the change to a younger audience,” said Tom Delate, the lead author of the study.

He said the increased use among younger men could be because Pfizer Inc., manufacturer of Viagra, is “shifting the demographic of who it was advertising to.”

Mr. Delate said the company replaced former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole as its spokesman with men who would attract a younger audience, such as athletes.

“The limitations of the study do not allow for broad conclusions regarding use of Viagra in younger men,” a spokesman for Pfizer said.

He added that the age range from 18 to 45 was too broad to draw accurate results.

Men 55 and older continue to receive the majority of prescriptions. According to the study, close to 7 percent of men 56 to 65 used the drug, compared with only 0.9 percent of those 18 to 45.

“They’re the ones most likely to suffer from this condition,” said Mr. Delate, referring to older men.

Viagra increases blood flow to treat erection difficulties. It also can benefit men who are impotent because of diabetes, heart disease and a variety of other conditions.

However, the study also found that the use for an underlying medical reason has declined from 45 percent to 40 percent in all age groups. According to Express Scripts, these findings suggest that more men are using Viagra as an enhancement or recreational agent.

The overall usage has increased 75 percent, from 0.8 percent of the population in 1998 to 1.4 percent in 2002. Pfizer says the prescription has helped about 16 million men with 9 tablets dispensed every second worldwide. In 2003, sales of the drug were $1.9 billion.

The increase in usage could mean higher costs for insurance companies.

“Already concerned with the impact Viagra has had on their pharmacy budgets, health-plan sponsors now face the prospect of increased use among a younger, healthier generation of patients,” Mr. Delate said.

New drugs, such as Levitra and Cialis, aimed at correcting erectile dysfunction are entering the market. Mr. Delate said instead of slowing the sales of Viagra, the new prescriptions only have increased the number of men using erectile-dysfunction drugs.

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