Buying Viagra online: Save time and embarrassment

Lori Johnston

Men too embarrassed to pick up Viagra in person now can fill their prescription for the erectile dysfunction medicine online and have the little blue pills delivered to their home.

Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company that makes Viagra, announced in May 2013 the launch of its Viagra home delivery service, in partnership with CVS Pharmacy, which has more than 7,400 stores in the U.S.

buy Viagra onlinePfizer's new service isn't just a matter of convenience for the millions of men in the U.S. who have prescriptions for Viagra. Viagra is one of Pfizer's most popular drugs, with an estimated $2 billion in worldwide sales in 2012. Viagra also is Pfizer's most counterfeited medicine, and the company is seeking to confront companies that are selling Viagra counterfeits online.

Some people have questioned whether or not the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, will cover Viagra. But if you get a health plan through the health insurance marketplaces, this health plan must cover ten essential benefits - and one of these benefits is prescriptions. Health insurance exchanges will open in October 2013.

How to avoid fake Viagra

Erectile dysfunction medicines are among the most commonly counterfeited, according to Partnership for Safe Medicines, a Virginia-based group of not-for-profit organizations and individuals seeking to protect consumers from counterfeit or contraband drugs. Counterfeiters offer cheaper prices - sometimes up to half price - for Viagra, which costs up to $25 per pill.

Fake pharmacy websites selling counterfeit drugs can put individuals' health at risk, says Carmen Catizone, executive director of National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, in a press release. Lead paint, drywall, printer ink, floor wax, poisons such as pesticides and boric acid have been found in counterfeit Viagra pills, according to Pfizer.

A 2013 report by the NABP found that nearly 97 percent of more than 10,000 websites selling prescription drugs are operating outside of state and federal laws, or fail to follow patient safety and pharmacy practice standards and should not be recommended to consumers.

In 2011, Pfizer ordered pills sold by the 22 websites that appear in the top search results for "buy Viagra" and conducted chemical analysis of those pills. About 80 percent of those pills were counterfeit, containing much smaller amounts of sildenafil citrate (the key ingredient in Viagra) than advertised. About 90 percent of those sites claim to sell generic Viagra, which is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Pfizer says.

"There are almost 24 million searches a year for Viagra online. By offering men with erectile dysfunction convenient access and a legitimate alternative to purchase Viagra online, our hope is that Pfizer will help rein in the distribution of fake erectile dysfunction products," Victor Clavelli, senior director, marketing group leader, Primary Care Business Unit, said in a press release.

Online pharmacies accredited by the NABP's Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites® (VIPPS®) program, which requires meeting security, privacy and quality-assurance requirements, sell Viagra legitimately. One online pharmacy in particular, CVS.com, is partnering with Pfizer on the home delivery of Viagra through Viagra.com.

How to order Viagra online

Viagra, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1998, was the first oral erectile dysfunction medication.

Pfizer's home delivery of Viagra will work like this:

1. Men can log onto Viagra.com and submit a new prescription or refill an existing one.

2. CVS/pharmacy will authenticate the prescriptions, fill the order and ship the medicine (free standard shipping is available in the continental U.S.).

3. Men also can check on their order status and estimate their co-pay, according to Pfizer.

As long as a valid prescription is required, which means a doctor has evaluated the patient first, any way a patient can get the drug faster and safely from Pfizer is a good thing, says Dr. John Wheeler, a urologist at Loyola University Health System in Maywood, Ill., and member of the faculty at Loyola University Medical Center.

"They're going to get the real drug, not a counterfeit, from a reputable company," he says.