This Man Is Responsible for 5 Billion Orgasms - OZY | A Modern Media Company

This Man Is Responsible for 5 Billion Orgasms

This Man Is Responsible for 5 Billion Orgasms

By Nathan Siegel

SourceNathan Griffith/Corbis


Because there are precious few better legacies than enabling that much pleasure.

By Nathan Siegel

Casanova, Cleopatra and Wilt Chamberlain. All legendary for their insatiable thirst for love and sex. But their legacies of seduction are no match for Dr. Nicholas Terrett and his team of British scientists, though in a roundabout way. Since Terrett’s compound, sildenafil citrate, was approved by the Federal Drug Administration to treat erectile dysfunction (ED) in 1998,

Viagra has had a hand in approximately 5 billion orgasms.

Now, close your mouth. That much sex would register on the Richter scale. But think about it — other than the condom and alcohol, there probably isn’t a better intercourse-aiding invention. Of course, the data isn’t perfect and our assumptions can be debated to varying degrees, but there’s no question: Viagra is still the king of the all-night romp. Charles Walker, an assistant professor of urology at Yale University, agrees. He says his patients’ experience with the drug has been “overwhelmingly good,” and that dyspepsia, headache, flushing and nasal congestion are all a “small price” to pay for magic under the sheets.


So how the hell did we get to 5 billion? Easy. Take Viagra’s revenue from Pfizer’s annual financial reports and divide that by the approximate cost of a single pill ($30), and you’ve got approximately how many pills were popped. Take into consideration that the drug only works for about half of men and that just because Viagra goes down your gullet, doesn’t mean the deed is done — sometimes your teen comes home early or work calls (how rude!). Finally, assume that one-third of women and 80 percent of men orgasm during sex. Simple.

Granted, we’re assuming the price of Viagra has remained stable (in fact, to be on the safe side, it’s risen dramatically) and that without the little blue pill, these couples wouldn’t be having sex — thanks to vibrators, that doesn’t mean women wouldn’t still be orgasming. Nonetheless, 5 billion is close. You’re welcome, Dr. Terrett. 

For their part, Pfizer sidestepped a request for comment, instead providing a brochure-esque response, including such revelationary insights as “Viagra can help a man with ED get and keep an erection.” Wow! Or: “20 years ago, people considered ED a natural part of aging to be tolerated.” 

Well, actually, many still do. Including Celeste Hirschman, a San Francisco-based sex and relationship therapist, who says people jump far too quickly for medical solutions to natural problems — simply put: “Bodies change.” But your man’s inability to get it up may be a blessing in disguise, she says. Couples should shift their focus to other “delicious” activities, including erotic massage and a nice, long, warm-up session. And if you aren’t interested in anything like that, then there’s something wrong with the relationship, not the equipment, says Hirschman. Sage advice. Maybe we can soon credit Hirschman with 5 billion.

This OZY encore was originally published Feb. 15, 2015.

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