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Finweek English Edition - - INSIGHT -

orry, you can’t have it back.” Dr Brian Klee, se­nior med­i­cal direc­tor at phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany Pfizer, had never be­fore en­coun­tered such a re­ac­tion from pa­tients. Usu­ally, at the end of a failed drug trial, pa­tients were more than happy to give the med­i­ca­tion back. Not this time, how­ever, and Klee was con­fused.

Pfizer had been run­ning tri­als on a new drug called silde­nafil cit­rate, cre­ated by Bri­tish sci­en­tists Peter Dunn and Al­bert Wood in 1989 (some sources credit Bell, Brown and Ter­ret). They hoped the com­pound would be use­ful in treat­ing high blood pres­sure and angina, a chest pain as­so­ci­ated with coro­nary heart dis­ease. How­ever, the tri­als were a dis­mal fail­ure, with the drug show­ing lit­tle ef­fect in treat­ing heart dis­ease. Klee in­ves­ti­gated the rea­son for the pa­tients’ re­luc­tance to part with their med­i­ca­tion at the end of the trial. What he dis­cov­ered was very sur­pris­ing. “One thing that we found dur­ing those tri­als is that peo­ple didn’t want to give the med­i­ca­tion back be­cause of the side ef­fect of hav­ing erec­tions that were harder, firmer and lasted longer.”

With this un­ex­pected re­sult in mind, Pfizer sci­en­tist Ian Oster­loh con­ducted fur­ther re­search to “help us un­der­stand how the drug might am­plify the ef­fects of sex­ual stim­u­la­tion in open­ing up the blood ves­sels in the pe­nis. With UK-92480’s chances of treat­ing angina now slim, we de­cided to run pilot stud­ies on pa­tients with erec­tile dys­func­tion.”

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