High speed railways, low-cost handsets – and now drugs for erectile dysfunction.
The list of cheaper technologies that China wants to supply to the rest of the world took an intimate turn last week when the makers of Jin’ge – a Viagra equivalent – announced plans to start selling overseas.
Jin’ge – literally ‘Golden Spear’ – appeared in shops last October, shortly after Pfizer’s fourteen-year patent had expired in the Chinese market.
Last week Guangzhou-based Baiyunshan Pharmaceutical Holdings announced that sales had reached Rmb700 million ($109.56 million) – more than half way to its target of Rmb1 billion a year by 2017.
Success at home is encouraging the pharma firm to go international. “We have started applying for sales of the medicine in several countries and regions, as global demand is huge,” deputy general manager Wang Wenchu told local press.
Golden Spear is about half the price of Viagra, which is known colloquially as Wei Ge or ‘Mighty Brother’ in Chinese.
Jin’ge was the first chemically similar version of Viagra to be released in the domestic market but there are other companies offering erectile dysfunction drugs with the same sildenafil ingredient.
In fact Pfizer had to fight hard to keep the company’s patent for the full fourteen years. In 2004 it lost patent protection after a challenge from a group of local drug makers. Two years later a court in Beijing reinstated it. Viagra also serves as a cautionary tale for Western companies seeking to trademark their product names in China. By the time Pfizer got round to registering Wei Ge as the brand’s Chinese language name, local companies had already claimed it.
Officially Viagra is now known as Wanaike, which translates loosely as ‘make love 10,000 times’.
In spite of its local difficulties, Viagra still has the largest market share, even with rapid rise of Jin’ge.
Studies have suggested the Chinese market is large enough to incorporate several players. A high incidence of cigarette smoking, plus an aging population, means that demand is growing.
Last year a survey of the nation’s sex life got straight to the point by asking men if they were “hard like cucumber” or “soft like tofu”. A little over half (55%) reported the former.
The domestic media returned to the same theme last week, estimating that 127 million men over the age of 40 suffer from erectile dysfunction, but that many younger men suffer from it too, with work and economic pressures cited as two contributing factors.
Traditionally, Chinese men wanting a little more oomph have opted for herbal remedies made from crushed tiger bones. And for those that still prefer a natural boost before bedtime, Baiyunshan has its own herbal remedy called Tie Ma or ‘Iron Horse’.
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