Viagra Price In Jeddah

Viagra’s Popularity Spawns Black Market

JEDDAH, 14 February 2005 — Drugs like Viagra are accounting for hundreds of millions of riyals in sales annually in the Kingdom. But because of the demand and counterfeit drugs in the marketplace, buyers may not be getting what they bargained for.

The popularity of erectile-dysfunction medications, such as Viagra and Cialis, has spurred a black market industry for supplying and selling these medications — particularly the most popular one, Viagra, or “the little blue pill.”

Although medical experts say 50 percent of the men over 45 years of age are believed to suffer some degree of sexual dysfunction, pharmacists say most of the customers asking for the blue pill are young men in the 30-40 age group.

“They probably don’t need it; they just want to try it,” Dr. S. Ahmad, a pharmacist, told Arab News.

Another pharmacist said his shop gets customers of all ages, from 20 to 70 years old, asking for the blue pill.

“There are five degrees of the potency problem caused by different factors, so it is possible that even the young might need it, and there is no harm in taking it — except for those taking any nitrate medications for specific heart problems,” said Dr. Magdi Mohsen, medical adviser at Pfizer Corp. office in Jeddah. Viagra, a product of Pfizer for ED (erectile dysfunction), is the second best-selling pharmaceutical product in Saudi Arabia after Augmentin, an antibiotic.

Although pharmacists are not supposed to sell Viagra without a prescription, like many other prescription medications they do.

“I ask if they have a heart condition, if not I sell them the Viagra,” said Dr. Ahmad.

Another pharmacist said almost 90 percent of the Viagra sales are without prescription. The older the age group, the less likely they are to buy the drug, perhaps out of embarrassment.

“Some might hang around the pharmacy until all the customers leave before asking for the pills,” said the pharmacist.

However, Dr. Ahmad said that when a middle-aged or an elderly gentleman asks for the drug he usually buys three or four boxes at once, especially if he is about to travel because it is easier, but not necessarily cheaper, to purchase it here. A box of Viagra contains four tablets and is sold for the standard price set by the Ministry of Health at SR146.

According to an Egyptian pharmacist here, Viagra is cheaper in Egypt and other Asian countries, which is the reason some people might try to smuggle large quantities and sell it illegally. Another reason could be that the Ministry of Health does not permit the selling of 100 mg tablets of Viagra, only the 25 mg and 50 mg, again enticing people to smuggle in the higher-dosage tablets and sell them for a profit.

“Like any pricing policy of an international company, the selling prices of Viagra in the countries of the region are very close. As for the dosage, we always recommend that the customer abide by the national regulations and follow the doctor’s prescription,” said Dr. Mohsen.

The danger for men buying the medication without a prescription is in not knowing their health condition or not informing the pharmacist. Back in March, newspapers reported on an old man from Turaif province who died on his wedding night after taking Viagra. The man’s relatives said that he suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes. There have been many reports of elderly men going to hospital emergency rooms suffering from a heart problem after taking the potency medications.

Since Viagra was introduced in Saudi Arabia six years ago, it has become one of the top-selling medications. It remained the only male potency medication for three years before others types were developed, but it is still the most popular.

“We usually tell them about the different kinds available and their effects and possible side-effects and recommend the one we think is appropriate for them,” said Thamer, a pharmacist.

The demand for male-potency medication also has increased the drug counterfeiting, which has cut into sales of Viagra.

“The danger of these counterfeit medications is in not knowing their source, contents, production process, storage and shipping conditions in addition to their health effects,” said Dr. Mohsen.

Even those medications carrying the same logo and packaging of Pfizer imported from other countries might not be authentic or approved by the Ministry of Health here.

People in many Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, where the sexual dysfunction problems were initially viewed as a psychological ailment, now are considered a medically treatable problem, and much of the stigma associated with these drugs is fading.

According to pharmaceutical market experts, sales of potency medications ranged from SR800 million to SR1 billion in 2004 in Saudi Arabia, representing one-fifth of the total pharmaceutical market. Saudi Arabia is at the top of the list among GCC in terms of consumption, sources said.