Bah humbug, part 1: AIDS group claims Viagra causes increase in HIV infections.

AIDS group to sue Pfizer over Viagra ads

Mon Jan 22, 2007 10:02am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A major U.S. AIDS treatment group plans to file a lawsuit on Monday that accuses drug giant Pfizer Inc. of illegally promoting recreational use of its blockbuster impotence pill Viagra.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) told Reuters it wants Pfizer to be barred from marketing Viagra as a lifestyle or sexual enhancement drug. The nonprofit organization said Pfizer’s actions had led to risky behavior by men and an increase in HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

“Pfizer has created and contributed to the perception of Viagra as a safe, sexy, lifestyle, recreational drug, to be frequently used regardless of the degree, or even existence of” erectile dysfunction, the group said in draft legal documents.

While I sympathize about AIDS treatment costs, the case – at least as made in the news article (which is very much worth a full read) – is tenuous. Then again, I haven’t seen the ads in question.

Should the federales be suing Pfizer for welfare checks because of unintended pregnancies that might not have happened but for Viagra? It’s similar logic, though I doubt at $9/pill retail (and higher through the online vendors who cater to the recreational use market) that it’s making a lot of inroads among the very poor.

And why just Viagra? The other PDE-5 inhibitors (Levitra and Cialis) are essentially the same; indeed, both of the others for various reasons are better choices for a purely recreational user.

And yes, in one sense they’re right – Viagra is used as a recreational drug, especially heavily if you count people with real but intermittent ED. So what? It still require’s a doctor’s prescription, and the few risks a healthy individual (or otherwise-healthy individual with ED) takes in using it are theirs alone and relatively minor. The risks of STDs faced by someone using it are no higher than those by someone without ED, and indeed given the occasional complaints guys have about losing their erections when using condoms, one could argue that with Viagra may encourage safer-sex practices.

(I’m locking this one “no comments” because mentioning the big V will probably attract extra spambots. If you really want to comment, do so on Bah Humbug Part 2, to be posted shortly.)

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