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AIDS Healthcare Foundation to File Lawsuit Against Pfizer

The Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation on Monday is expected to file a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against the pharmaceutical company Pfizer//. The decision is the outcome for allegedly promoting recreational use of its erectile dysfunction drug Viagra in advertisements, Reuters reports.

According to Reuters, AHF said Pfizer's ads for the drug have increased risky sexual behavior, as well as cases of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, among men.

The group in draft legal documents said, "Pfizer has created and contributed to the perception of Viagra as a safe, sexy, lifestyle, recreational drug to be frequently used regardless of the degree, or even existence of," erectile dysfunction.

AHF in the documents also cited several recent ads, including a 2005 newspaper ad that included a smiling man asking, "What are you doing on New Year's Eve?" Another ad highlighted by AHF ran close to the 2006 Super Bowl and called on men to be "this Sunday's MVP" by asking their doctors about the drug.

According to AHF President Michael Weinstein, the ads portray Viagra as a "party drug" that can improve sex for healthy men -- an assertion that has not been approved by FDA. In addition, AHF said that studies have found recreational use of Viagra among men who have sex with men might overcome the erection-inhibiting effects of alcohol or drugs such as crystal methamphetamine and ecstasy.

The suit will ask that Pfizer stop running ads that promote Viagra as a lifestyle drug and that the company fund ads promoting awareness about the risks associated with Viagra and STIs, according to Reuters. In addition, the suit will ask that Pfizer forfeit profits gained from the "misleading" ads and pay for AHF's costs of treating cases of HIV/AIDS and other STIs that it has linked to Viagra, Reuters reports.

Pfizer spokesperson Shreya Prudio said the company was not aware of the lawsuit. She added that Pfizer is "committed to safe and appropriate use of Viagra," adding that ads for the drug state that it does not "protect against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV."

Viagra had $1.6 billion worldwide in sales in 2005, Reuters reports. AHF in December 2006 launched an ad campaign against Pfizer because it said the company's ads for Viagra promote recreational use. Pfizer at the time denied that the ads encourage recreational use of the drug and said its advertising states that the drug does not protect against STIs.

Pfizer in 2004 halted an ad campaign because FDA said the ads made an unproven claim that the drug could help men recover a youthful amount of sexual desire, according to Reuters.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

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