Bayer-sponsored study could give Levitra new angle

Levitra’s European marketer may have helped identify a clinical edge for the drug: it could help ease the blues as well as ED. The DRIVER (Depression-Related Improvement With Vardenafil for Erectile Response) study, funded by ex-US marketer Bayer, showed that Levitra (vardenafil) improves both erectile function and depression in patients. Data were first announced in 2004 at a European urologists’ conference in Vienna before appearing in January’s American Journal of Psychiatry (AJP), noted Helmut Schäfers, head of media relations for Bayer HealthCare AG. He declined to comment on how the depression connection could inform Levitra communications with doctors and patients. A 2001 AJP study, supported by Pfizer, demonstrated that Viagra (sildenafil) also was associated with improvement in depressive symptoms. However, while Eli Lilly ICOS has tested Cialis (tadalifil) for ED treatment response in men with depression, there is no research in the public literature looking at the drug’s effect on mental health, according to Lilly. Levitra’s mental health effects are likely attributable to increased self-esteem and quality of life associated with improved sexual function, rather than to any direct antidepressant effect, the study authors concluded. Yet the findings could provide a new selling point for the franchise, which is No. 3 in market share behind Viagra and Cialis, known internationally for its 36-hour duration. That’s despite an unbranded campaign launched in December by Levitra’s US marketers Schering-Plough and GlaxoSmithKline. The drug’s share of new prescriptions inched up from 13.8% to 14.1% in January, according to Verispan. The campaign encourages men to talk to doctors about how diabetes, high BP and high cholesterol can lead to ED.