Magazine article Newsweek

The Globe Is Gaga for Viagra

Magazine article Newsweek

The Globe Is Gaga for Viagra

Article excerpt

Around the world, approved or not, the little blue pin is a social phenomenon: the hottest new drug in history. Is this a good thing? RASHID GABDULLIN IS ONLY 32 years old, and he claims he's never had any complaints about his sexual performance. So when Gabdullin, a reporter for a Russian newspaper, tried the new anti-impotence drug Viagra, it was as a service to his readers. One dose did nothing for him, apart from inspiring "warm romantic feelings and a desire to meet a nice girl and take her to dinner," he wrote in the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda, which employs him as a correspondent in Central America. Only after he swallowed a double dose did the drug "work," he said. Gabdullin rushed out of his apartment, looking frantically for female company. Instead, he got stuck, alone, in a broken-down elevator. When he was set free, two hours later, the Viagra effect had faded away. By now, Viagra is a global phenomenon. Introduced in the United States barely two months ago, the blue, diamond-shaped pill made by Pfizer Inc. is the hottest new drug in history almost everywhere in the world, including many countries where it's not yet legal for sale (map). Not since "sputnik" has a new word entered so many languages so quickly. In Mexico, humorists say Viagra means "the old lady is grateful," from the words vieja and agradecida. In Italy, enterprising marketers have come up with nonmedicinal "pizza Viagra" (topped with hot chili peppers), "gelati Viagra" (a blue ice cream that tastes like vanilla) and "formaggio Viagra" (a disappointingly soft cheese). The news media are full of glowing, if unscientific, endorsements. Brazilian columnist Paulo Sant'Ana, a 58-year-old grandfather, took the pill on two occasions and described the results as "incessant, pleasurable" and so long-lasting that he stopped making love only when his partner begged for a rest. "Viagra won't let you down," he says. Former Italian soccer player Stefano Tacconi, 41, said the pill produced a duration of "twice as long as usual." But he said he wouldn't use the drug again because it takes the "poetry" out of sex. In Jakarta, a Pfizer executive says he received a call from a man identifying himself as an official at Cendana, the residence of former Indonesian president Suharto. The caller asked for 100 Viagra tablets to be sent to the home of the 77-year-old ex-president. The Pfizer man told the caller Viagra was not yet approved in Indonesia and that the company had no supply on hand. He tactfully promised to do what he could. The next day, the Cendana official called back, telling the executive not to bother. "We've already got some in from the U.S.," he explained. Currently, Viagra is legally available only in the United States, Brazil, Morocco and Mexico. It's coming soon to Colombia, South Africa and Thailand, and many other governments are rushing it through the approval process. Already there's a booming black market and a brisk traffic in counterfeit Viagra, some of which is nothing more than flour and cornstarch. There's also a gray market that uses telephone lines and the Internet to leap over national boundaries and legal technicalities. Computer users click onto Web sites like www.thepillbox.com, where Viagra is "this month's special." In Israel, a number obtained from a local newspaper ad reaches a telephone in Brooklyn, N.Y., where a man offers 10 pills for $280. The pills will be delivered anywhere in Israel within 24 hours, he says, and if a caller asks about the legality of the transaction, he growls: "Look, do you want it or not?" Most callers do. Desperate, horny or merely curious, millions of men around the world are redrawing the romantic road map, hoping to find a pharmaceutical fountain of youth. The German tabloid Bild predicts that Viagra "can set off a sexual revolution, just like the anti-baby pill did 30 years ago.' The implicit promise of Viagra--one not endorsed by its manufacturer--is good sex for all old or young gay or straight, male or female. …

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