VIAGRA: DAVID BRINKLEY

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David Brinkley says he was not surprised by Viagra's blockbuster success, only by how quickly the drug became part of the cultural lexicon.

"I think the breadth of the media influence really surprised us," says Mr. Brinkley, director-team leader of sexual health for Pfizer and architect of the drug's marketing. "However, we define success on the patient level, and that didn't surprise us."

Viagra had an unparalleled impact on both fronts. The drug for erectile dysfunction became the most successful prescription drug launch, with $788 million in sales in its first nine months.

Despite a slowdown in sales after its initial success, Viagra sales are still expected to reach $1 billion for 1999.

Under Mr. Brinkley, Pfizer successfully gave the problem of impotence a makeover by referring to it as E.D., or erectile dysfunction. The drugmaker had success destigmatizing the problem; it even persuaded former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole to appear in an ad for the subject this year.

"It's not a character flaw," says Mr. Brinkley. "It's something that happens."

The Viagra marketing effort began with a campaign directed at physicians and a consumer campaign followed.

At the same time, the drug's introduction become a staple of TV and radio talk-show banter.

Mr. Brinkley says the the drug's effectiveness for millions of men drives Viagra sales more than any marketing technique or publicity buzz.

"All of our marketing work is not going to go anywhere unless you have a drug working for people," he says. "The fact that it maintains a place in popular culture is due largely to that."

Now Mr. Brinkley is taking his U.S. launch experience on a global scale; he is

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