Size not everything in mainland's Viagra battle | South China Morning Post
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  • Mar 30, 2015
  • Updated: 1:22pm

Size not everything in mainland's Viagra battle

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 February, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 February, 1999, 12:00am
 

A Shenyang company yesterday launched the Chinese Viagra - a pill that promises to combat impotence and improve sexual performance - at a fraction of the price of its US competitor.


'We aim to sell 100 million pills and earn between one [billion yuan] and 1.5 billion yuan (about HK$931 million and $1.39 billion) in sales this year, with about 20 per cent going to Hong Kong and other parts of Asia,' said Jiang Wei, chairman of the Shenyang Fei Long (Flying Dragon) Health Products.


'Our tests on guinea pigs show that it is more effective than Viagra. We are currently testing the sexual responses of rabbits and cats to the drug and will have the results in March and April,' he said.


There are no foreign test results to confirm that the pill works, or if it is safe.


A box of 16 pills sells for 180 yuan.


The Ministry of Health has not approved the Viagra pill produced by Pfizer of the United States, but it is available on the black market in mainland cities, for about 250 yuan to 300 yuan a tablet.


Mr Jiang said that his pill was developed independently by him and his company, which spent 20 million yuan on research and development in the past five years. It contains only plant materials, while the American Viagra is synthetic. 'Ours has no side-effects,' he said.


The explanation on the package says that it can treat 'erectile dysfunction of men and women, sexual apathy, premature ejaculation, impotence and menopausal syndrome'.


The name of the pill is Wei Ge, which means 'Big Brother' in Mandarin. In Cantonese it means 'Big Penis', but the word does not have this connotation to speakers of Mandarin.


Last July, Mr Jiang applied to register this brand name in Beijing and won the copyright on September 3. Last year, Pfizer received the copyright for this name in Hong Kong but not on the mainland.


Mr Jiang said that in May 1997 Pfizer registered the name 'Wei Er Gang', meaning 'big and hard' in Mandarin, with the intention of using this to market the pill on the mainland.


'Pfizer made a mistake with this name,' he said. 'It is too blunt and offensive for Chinese who, thanks to 5,000 years of Confucianism, are modest in public about sex. Once the doors are closed, they are as passionate and violent as anyone else but, externally, they like to be demure.' The name Wei Ge was invented by Hong Kong newspapers who needed Chinese characters to describe Viagra. Mr Jiang said that he was undecided which name to use until July last year when he saw that the China Youth Daily in Beijing used the same two characters.


This convinced him that Wei Ge would be used on the mainland as well and he rushed to Beijing to register the name before anyone else at a cost of 10,000 yuan.


He estimates the brand is worth 400 million yuan.


Would he sell it to Pfizer for a good price? 'No, they will not ask me and I will not sell it, even for one billion yuan. This is the chance for my company to grow. This is not equal competition. The annual turnover of Pfizer is the same as that of the mainland's combined pharmaceutical industry and my company is just a little fart by comparison.'

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