Viagra Blindness

Viagra is a well-known erectile dysfunction drug made by Pfizer Inc. In late May 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it had received reports of Viagra blindness in 38 users that the agency was investigating. While Pfizer was quick to dismiss the reports of Viagra blindness, the drug company finds itself facing even more damaging information to its reputation.

In April 2005, Pfizer took its arthritis drug Bextra off the shelves after it was linked to heart failure and a rare, potentially deadly skin reaction, and before that, in 2004, the company had faced accusation that its $3.4 billion antidepressant drug Zoloft could be linked to suicide in children and teens. While Viagra blindness links would not be that damaging to its revenue, being a $1.7 billion drug in 2004 for the company compared to its top selling $10.9 billion drug, it could be more damaging to the company’s overall standing.

The possible Viagra blindness link was made in early 2005 when opthalmologists at the University of Minnesota published evidence linking Viagra to nonarteritic ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION). NAION is described as a “stroke of the eye,” occurring when blood flow to the optic nerve is cut. Of the 42 reports of blindness, 38 of them have been made in regard to Viagra blindness and the other four in regard to a similar drug to Viagra called Cialis.

According to an FDA spokesman, the agency is looking into the reports of Viagra blindness but has no evidence the drug is to blame as of yet. Some experts think that a serious Viagra blindness link will not be made warranting a drug recall, but it will result in increased drug warnings on labels. Already, Viagra warns of abnormal vision on its web site, including some blurriness and a bluish tint.

Pfizer says that NAOIN is the most common acute optic nerve disease in adults over the age of 50, and the fact that it has the same common risk factors associated with erectile dysfunction makes it impossible to determine if there is a real Viagra blindness link or if the condition is the result of a combination of risk factors. News that Pfizer was in discussions with the FDA over Viagra blindness reports sent its stock falling and investors scrambling.

Prof. Howard Pomeranz reported on the Viagra blindness in the Journal of Neuro-ophthalmology, and recommended ophthalmologists ask men with NAION about Viagra use, and that patients with a history of NAION in one eye be cautioned that use of the drug could lead to greater risks of Viagra blindness. In the U.K., the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency said on June 1, 2005 that it had received a total of six suspected reports of Viagra blindness, including one of temporary blindness.

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