Viagra Advertisements Featuring Attractive Woman Causes Backlash

Pfizer is facing sharp criticism over a new direct-to-consumer advertising campaign for Viagra, which features a woman pitching the company’s blockbuster erectile dysfunction drug on primetime television.¬†

Some say that the television ads, in which an attractive woman talks frankly about men failing to get and keep an erection, is too aggressive and makes the pharmaceutical industry look bad.

Others have complained about the need to explain the commercial to their children, as it has been repeatedly aired during primetime baseball playoff games over the past few weeks.

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“So guys, it’s just you and your honey. The setting is perfect, but then, erectile dysfunction happens again,” says a blonde-haired woman with a British accent, while she is sprawled on a canopied bed at a beach, wearing a provocative blue satin dress. “You know what? Plenty of guys have this issue. Not just getting an erection, but keeping it.”

The woman later strolls down a beach and on a pier with the wind blowing her hair and dress around.

It is the first time a Viagra ad has prominently featured a woman pitching the drug, and some say that the setting, the actress used, how she is dressed and what she says promotes Viagra as a sexual aid for life-style reasons, rather than as a treatment for a medical condition.

David Gianatasio wrote earlier this month in Adweek.com that the commercial stands out, but not in a good way.

“It feels tacky, and could almost be viewed as an exercise in objectification: Take Viagra and claim your prize!” he wrote. “Plus, some elements seem like overkill. She says “erection.” Do we really need the ship masts in the distance, rising straight and tall? Or that long pier jutting into the briny deep? And flagpoles planted in the sand?”

The commercial is endemic of the image the pharmaceutical industry suffers from, and is part of a bigger problem, says John LaMattina, a Forbes contributor and former president of Pfizer Global Research and Development. He notes that the original Viagra commercials focused on the importance of using the drug for a medical condition, often suffered by prostate cancer survivors.

“Initially subtle, these ads now focus on these drugs not for their value in treating a serious medical condition but rather on promoting one’s life-style,” he wrote in a Forbes article. ” In fact, when I speak in public about the importance and merits of the biopharmaceutical industry, I often get challenged about the ED TV ads. People feel that their privacy is invaded when these ads appear during a program, particularly if there are children present. It is clear that they trigger a visceral negative reaction for many people.”

LaMattina calls for Pfizer, his former employer, to remove the ads, saying they damage the industry’s already fragile reputation.

Viagra Side Effects Cause Concerns

The controversy comes amid growing concern over the side effects of Viagra, and questions about whether Pfizer may be failing to adequately disclose all of the potential risks associated with the popular erectile dysfunction drug.

Viagra (sildenafil citrate) was introduced by Pfizer in 1998, and it has become a blockbuster medication and one of the most widely known prescription medications in the country.

The impotence drug has been aggressively promoted as a safe treatment for erectile dysfunction, which causes a number of men to experience sexual problems, including the inability to develop or maintain an erection. Consumers generally believe that the medication carries little, if any, health risks.

Recently, there has been increasing debate over whether Viagra’s benefits outweigh the potential risks, yet Pfizer appears to be aggressively advertising the drug not to treat a medical condition, but as a sex life enhancer.

Earlier this year, researchers from Harvard Medical School published the findings of a new study that identified a potential link between side effects of Viagra and melanoma skin cancer, finding that men who start using the drug make be 84% more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma than men who do not use the medication.

Researchers suggested that Viagra may lower levels of a cancer-fighting protein called PDE5A. This, in turn, results in melanoma skin cancer cells becoming more invasive.

Melanoma is diagnosed in about 69,000 Americans each year and causes about 8,650 deaths annually. The skin cancer usually manifests as unusual moles or patches of skin.

While it is often curable if caught early, once melanoma has spread beyond the skin and local lymph nodes, treatment is difficult and it may ultimately result in death.

Pfizer now may now face a number of Viagra lawsuits, being considered by men nationwide who allege that they may have been able to avoid a diagnosis of melanoma by choosing not to use the erectile or that they may have been able to catch the cancer before it progressed to a life-threatening stage if they had been provide warnings about the importance of monitoring for signs or symptoms of skin cancer.

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