In 2017, an important breakthrough for ED medications occurred when the final patent for Viagra expired after 20 years, allowing for cheaper alternatives to be sold that worked as effectively as the original.
Around a similar time, people could choose to either buy Cialis or an identical yet cheaper version, and the same is true for Levitra/Vivanza.
This is possible due to a principle known as generic medication, which allows for identical versions of a medication to be made once the exclusive patent rights of the original are lost.
Much like how the initial development and marketing of Viagra helped men with ED who could not take advantage of earlier treatments, the lower costs of generic medication have helped once again to ensure that a growing number of people with ED have a regular, effective treatment.
Here is how generic medications work, starting with the development of a medical drug itself.
What Is A Patent?
A patent put simply is the rights to an invention, which can include a mechanical device, a method of completing a task or a chemical compound.
It is an exceptionally complicated legal field, particularly when patents are disputed but it can be treated as ownership rights to a particular medicine.
Developing medical treatments are extremely expensive, with the Tufts Centre estimating that the price of creating a wholly new medicine being as expensive as $2.6bn (£1.9bn).
The reward, therefore, for pharmaceutical companies is that once they develop a new treatment is that they can patent it. The aim then is to make money back in selling the medicine or the rights for others to manufacture it.
This is the reason why new medicines and medical discoveries are often expensive at first. The original inventor is trying to make their money back.
Patents do not last forever, typically lasting 20 years in most countries with varying rules depending on the type of patent and some incentive schemes.
Once that ends, competitors can come in and create generic alternatives to brand name medicines, although there are rules to this, the main one being that a generic version must be bioequivalent to the brand name version.
What Is Bioequivalence?
Generic medications do not necessarily have exactly the same ingredients as the brand name version, but they must be functionally identical to be legally sold as a generic version of a drug.
This is known as bioequivalence and is the reason why generic versions of tadalafil may have a different looking or differently shaped pill to the original and yet work the same. The requirement is that they act the same rather than look the same.
Why Are Generic Medicines Cheaper?
Generic ED medication is cheaper simply because they do not have to worry about the initial research costs, which is a large part of the cost of producing pharmaceuticals.
As well as this, since anyone can make a generic version of a medication that is no longer patented, there is much more competition which brings down prices significantly.