No More Viagra: CVS Drops Pfizer’s Erectile Dysfunction Drug

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CVS Health Corp. dropped Pfizer Inc.’s erectile dysfunction medication Viagra from its list of coverage for drug insurance benefits, two years before the treatment is expected to face generic competition.

Patients can get coverage for Eli Lilly & Co.’s Cialis instead, CVS said in a document detailing the drugs it’s removing from the list, called a formulary, starting Jan. 1.

While CVS got its start as a discount retail chain, it’s become increasingly influential in the drug business, acquiring Caremark in 2007 to become the second-biggest manager of pharmaceutical benefits on behalf of U.S. insurers and employers. That makes its coverage decisions important for drugmakers like Pfizer, which analysts estimate will get $1.7 billion in sales from Viagra next year.

CVS didn’t say why its benefits unit dropped coverage of the drug, and press representatives didn’t respond to requests for comment. Pharmacy benefit managers like CVS sometimes negotiate deals with drugmakers to offer their products exclusively in exchange for a lower price, shutting out competitors.

Eli Lilly spokesman Scott MacGregor said the company doesn’t disclose “specifics” of its conversations with payers and that Lilly continues to support efforts to ensure men with erectile dysfunction have access to the right drugs.

Still Available

CVS drugstores still carry Viagra in their pharmacies for customers whose insurance covers the drug or who pay in full for it. Employers and insurers who use CVS to manage their drug benefits can also choose to make exceptions to the formulary.

“Pfizer is committed to ensuring patient access to our medicines,” Steve Danehy, a Pfizer spokesman, said by e-mail. “Viagra continues to be available to millions of patients in the marketplace, including many patients whose pharmacy benefit is managed by Caremark.”

CVS’s bigger competitor, Express Scripts Holding Co., will continue to cover Viagra and Cialis in 2016, according to the list it published this week.

Neither CVS nor Express Scripts covers Bayer AG’s Levitra, the other major drug for erectile dysfunction.

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