Pfizer Sued For Marketing Viagra As A “Party Drug”

From the Washington Post:

    An AIDS organization sued Pfizer Inc. on Monday 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 by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, calls Pfizer’s ads for the impotence drug false and misleading….
    The nonprofit group alleges 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.”…
    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. Myers said the newer ads imply the drug is meant to enhance the sexual experience and not to treat a medical condition.

Pfizer has denied that it promotes recreational use of Viagra. The lawsuit seeks to halt the advertisements and 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.” For what it’s worth, we’re all for cutting back on those Viagra ads. They’re so…lame. —MEGHANN MARCO

AIDS Group Sues Pfizer Over Viagra Ads [Washington Post]

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  1. timmus says:

    Is Viagra salesgirl for real? Or is she handing out info? I’m totally against the controlled prescription racket, but it just seems weird that someone could be handing out tablets like that in a public venue.

  2. Hoss says:

    According to their website, the mission of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation is “…to provide cutting-edge medical care regardless of an individual’s ability to pay”. I’d be pissed if I knew my charitable dollars meant to help indigent folks were being used for expensive litigation.

  3. WindowSeat says:

    I smell a shakedown. I’ve never seen a Viagra ad touting it as a cure for coke/crystal meth-dick.

  4. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    “cocktail”

    O_O

    Did I just read too much into that?

  5. bluegus32 says:

    Hossofcourse: I’m with you. Charitable donations of this kind should not be used to further political goals. People give money to help treat those afflicted with AIDS, not to fund a lawsuit against drug manufacturers.

    And I still don’t quite get the connection between Viagra promotion and the increase in AIDS transmission. If you’re a meth addict, whether or not you use Viagra, you’re not going to be generally responsible with your sexual health.

    Now maybe if Pfizer was pushing meth I could see this argument having some merit; but as it is this sounds pretty bogus to me.

  6. Viagra doesn’t spread STDs — unprotected sex does.

    Just like “guns don’t kill people…”

  7. B says:

    I don’t know anything about the validity of this lawsuit, but I’ve noticed that Viagra ads tend to feature a man in his late 40s-early 50s and a much younger woman, whereas the other ED advertisements feature a retiree-age couple.

  8. mathew says:

    “The group said recreational use of the drug furthers the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.”

    Say what? Is there any rationale given for this claim?

    I’d think you’d have a much stronger case for arguing that vodka and tequila manufacturers’ products further the spread of STDs…

  9. Antediluvian says:

    Before criticizing, do any of you know for certain that charitable donations ARE being used for the litigation?

    There’s also a lot more to this lawsuit than is shown in the blurb above.

    I’m not saying I agree with the suit completely, but I am saying that I was significantly more sympathetic to the suit after reading the article than I was after just reading the headline.

    It just looks like there was a bit of conclusion jumping going on here. Maybe the photo at the top was distracting? Oh, perhaps she’s a doctor AND pharmacist and can both diagnose ED and write a prescription for you at the, what is that, a festival of some sort?

  10. stephen5 says:

    Viagra has forced me to have unprotected sex many, many times. Where can I sign up for the class action suit?

    Also, what do they do for that “erections lasting longer than four hours” thing?
    I’m thinking medicinal leeches…

  11. Hoss says:

    Antediluvian — valid question. My assumption is that suing pfizer is not something that would be taken pro bono — but I don’t know. It’s certainly something that large firms would avoid.

  12. NeonCat says:

    “People, donations are down. We’re just not getting the cash we used to get. What can we do?”
    “How about a lawsuit, say a pharmaceutical manufacturer? Everyone hates them.”
    “Oh hell yeah!!!”

    While I don’t care for the plethora of pharmaceutical ads on the airwaves today, I believe Pfizer has a First Amendment right to air them. I also believe that once they leave the pharmacy, what people do with them is their business. If they want to get ripped on meth and Viagra and have stupidly unprotected sex, that is their business, not mine, nor Pfizer’s and not the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

    I will not go into the fact that the only legally acceptable party drugs in America are alcohol, tobacco and sugar, either.

    Keep your laws(uits) off my body.

  13. WindowSeat says:

    If AIDS Healthcare Foundation really wanted to go after ad campaigns that had a direct effect on STD transmission they should take a gander at the ads for HIV medications that show happy, healthy young men(often shirtless and ab-tastic),bicycling and otherwise enjoying a normal life; free of the horrible syptoms that my friends in the 80′s suffered (and eventually died from)like Kaposi’s Sarcoma and facial wasting. The marketing of HIV medications suggests that far from being a death sentence, AIDS is a manageable chronic condition and that everything will be just fine if you happen to (oopsie!) contract HIV. Most young people have never seen the devastating and rapid decline that comes with an untreated HIV infection and I hope they never have to, but take it from someone who was at the center of the outbreak in the 80′s and 90′s, it was horrible and it will haunt me for the rest of my life.

  14. Antediluvian says:

    WindowSeat is correct [HIV drugs don't show consequences of actual HIV infection / AIDS], which is why back as far as 2001 San Francisco looked to ban those sorts of ads, and then the FDA looked to it too. I don’t know the ultimate outcome, but I know there are plenty of hot guys in the ads in the bar rags here in Boston.


    http://archive.salon.com/news/feature/2001/05/08/drug_ads/
    The “Joe Camel” ads of AIDS?
    The FDA says ads for drugs to suppress HIV are making false promises, and could be contributing to an epidemic of unsafe sex.

  15. hurmpees says:

    A doctor still has to examine a patient and then prescribe the drug. These are not OTC drugs. How about a lawsuit against all doctors for prescribing it.

  16. Paul D says:

    @timmus
    WTF is the “controlled prescription racket”? Please do explain.

    @bluegus32
    What about this is “political” exactly?

    @hossofcourse
    You apparently missed this part:
    It offers cutting-edge medicine and advocacy, regardless of ability to pay

    Unlike AIDS, wet-noodle-syndrome is not a life-threatening illness. Viagra is like a boob job: medically necessary in only the rarest of cases.

    This is a symptom of increased pharmaceutical marketing over the last 10 years. Medicines are becoming “I want” instead of “I need”.

    And now Pfizer has found a way to squeeze even more $$ out of that concept.

    If Pfizer is marketing their #1 seller as a party drug instead of a bona fide medicine, then they should be slapped down, regardless of the reasoning. Besides, litigation like this is only “expensive” because the defendants invariably drag it out, playing games with the legal system until they starve the plaintiff into submission. They especially do this when they know they wouldn’t be able to win by legitimate means.

    Let’s not conjure the nebulous specter of the “frivolous lawsuit” just yet. (Frivolous lawsuits are like Sasquatch, or the Liberal Media; a lot of people talk about it, but no one’s ever actually seen it.)

    Put simply: make no mistake, the AHF is not the bad guy here.

    Not trying to be antagonistic. I am not a lawyer, I don’t work for the AHF, and to my knowledge I don’t know anyone with HIV. Just hoping you guys will clarify your comments a little.

  17. Hoss says:

    Paul D — the quote is a direct snip and paste from the site. Reading more about this, looks like their internal counsel filed the suit, so in fact they did use public donations for this purpose. I’m expecting them to file suits against both Barcardi and Coke under the same argument. Is that a good use of your donation?

  18. Paul D says:

    I generally don’t try to dictate what my donation goes to, as long as it falls within the organization’s mission statement. Which, in this case, it does.

  19. karimagon says:

    If you get mad at a the promotion of a drug as a party drug that encourages irresponsible behavior, why not look at the most obvious one of all: alcohol. Alcohol causes much more damage to society than Viagra and is often misrepresented in advertising to make itself seem appealing to underage drinkers.

    . . . Just saying.

  20. Antediluvian says:

    Hoss– Issue advocacy is an important component of activism of all kinds, including medical health issues (AIDS, cancer, Parkinsons, etc).

    Thanks for digging for the lawyer info.

    I would expect Planned Parenthood to sue the FDA over Plan B if/when over-the-counter sales are denied (if they haven’t already; I can’t recall Plan B’s status). I would also expect some cancer advocacy groups to sue if the cervical cancer vaccine were somehow restricted or not recommended.

    Groups fighting disease fight in multiple venues. The courtroom can be just as useful as the lab sometimes.

    And I strongly suspect the reasons why they’re not suing Baccardi or any other alcohol maker are because of likelihood of prevailing (or at least making a point), Viagra has a single manufacturer, it’s marketing has recently changed to a more recreational nature.

    Is the suit a good idea? Again, I’m still uncertain. But I think I understand why they did it.

  21. Hoss says:

    I guess I’m interpreting this level of advocacy akin to a Rape Crisis Center (which provides direct counseling, community education, along with other indirect advocacy) suing Kmart over the attitude t-shirt featured here on The Consumerist. It doesn’t feel like their dawg fight to me, but I certainly see a connection to the cause.

  22. isadora says:

    Paul B wrote: (Frivolous lawsuits are like Sasquatch, or the Liberal Media; a lot of people talk about it, but no one’s ever actually seen it.)

    Thank you so much for pointing that out! The current trend to create laws that prevent folks from suing companies enrages me! I’m sure Pfizer will be protected from the people (likely with a secret adendum to some unrelated law) before the people will be protected from Pfizer!

  23. Kornkob says:

    Paul B wrote: (Frivolous lawsuits are like Sasquatch, or the Liberal Media; a lot of people talk about it, but no one’s ever actually seen it.)

    I wouldn’t go that far— frivolous lawsuits exist. We’ve all seen newspaper or tv news piece about a burglar who has sued for a fall or someone doing something dumb, causing themselves injury and then firing up the lawyers to win the payday.

    However, frivolous lawsuits are undoubtably rarer than people frequently believe– as are welfare cheats or stranger abductions/rapes. These things happen, but with less frequency than commonly believed.