Teva Pharmaceutical Industries has sprung swiftly out of the blocks and launched its generic version of Viagra immediately after Pfizer's patent on the erectile dysfunction blockbuster expired in nine key European markets.

The Israeli drugmaker's copy of Viagra (sildenafil) has hit the market  in Germany, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland, Austria, Belgium and Denmark. Teva has already launched the product in Spain and Canada and certain other countries.

Dipankar Bhattacharjee, head of Teva's European generics business, noted that the firm "has a proud track record of bringing high-quality generics to the market on day one of patent expiry, and we have been able to launch sildenafil immediately‚Ķin all the major markets of Europe".  He said that the launch will "bring choice to the pharmacy to help them serve the patient, and to help ensure that high-quality healthcare in Europe is affordable".

Actavis as well

Actavis has also launched its version of Viagra in Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. It has been selling generic sildenafil in Bulgaria since June 2009 and has launched the product in various other patent-free markets in Europe.

The latter include Malta and Iceland, where Actavis' versions are manufactured and developed, respectively. According to IMS Health, Viagrahad sales of 382.2 million euros in Europe for the year ending March 31.

It has been reported that as many as 20 manufacturers plan to market generic versions of Viagra and Pfizer is also launching its own cheap alternative. The little blue tablet has been hugely successful and last year brought in revenues of $2.05 billion worldwide, some 15 years after being launched. Half of that comes from the USA, where Pfizer still has patent protection for Viagra until 2020.