AT A GLANCE: Viagra OTC trial rouses all-round media interest

Are we talking about Boots’ Viagra announcement?
Yes, the high-street chemist last week became the first outlet to offer the anti-impotence drug over the counter (OTC). Currently, it can only be given on prescription to treat men suffering from impotence or erectile dys­function. Inevitably, Boots made the announcement on Valentine’s Day.

Cue lots of ‘Boots stiffens resolve’ jokes?
Very funny. Actually, most headlines were quite staid and measured, with exceptions including The Sun’s ‘Boots offering sex treat’. However, widespread media coverage was generated by Boots’ press release. Clare Stafford, healthcare PR manager, is overseeing the retailer’s media relations campaign.

So, can men now just wander in and get Viagra?
No. It is being trialled at three Boots outlets in Manchester. Men have to have a consultation with the pharmacist before being allowed to buy the tablets. They then need a private doctor’s examination to determine whether they should be able to purchase ongoing supplies

Which pharma company makes Viagra?
Pfizer, but brand comms manager Andrew Widger said the manufac­tur­er won’t be doing any PR off the back of the Boots move because it ‘wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate’. He was keen to stress that this is a Boots initiative rather than a Pfizer one. Chandler Chicco Agency is Pfizer’s retained adviser for the product.

But Viagra isn’t the only anti-impotence brand, is it?
The little blue diamond-shaped pill was the first to be launched in the UK in the late 1990s. However, there are two other erectile dysfunction brands: Bayer’s Levitra and Lilly’s Cialis.

And who handles comms for them?
Red Door Communications does UK work for Levitra and plans to roll out PR and medical education program­mes to support the brand in 2007. Deputy MD Julie Harries says that Bayer welcomes ‘any initiative that brings the issue of erectile dysfunction to the top of the agenda’. Euro RSCG Biss Lancaster’s Claire Turner is the senior account manager for global consumer work on Levitra. Manning Selvage & Lee handles global work for Cialis. Anne Hyder, senior V-P for healthcare, runs the account. Red Consultancy MD Amanda Duncan leads the Cialis work in the UK.


For further information please visit boots-the-chemists.co.uk

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