By Jane Weaver Health editor
msnbc.com

Wm. Wrigley Jr., maker of Juicy Fruit, Big Red and Doublemint gums, is expanding its definition of “doubling your pleasure.” The Chicago gum company has been granted a U.S. government patent to develop a gum that contains a dose of the generic chemical in Viagra.

Wrigley scored the patent, No. 6,531,114, in March for a chewing gum that delivers a dose of sildenafil citrate, the chemical name for Pfizer Corp.’s Viagra. In the government document which was filed in 2000, Wrigley researchers said the gum would provide “an improved dosage form and method of treating erectile dysfunction.”

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The gum could be used by patients suffering from weak stomachs or swallowing disorders such as dysphagia, according to the patent. Upset stomach is one of the side effects of taking Viagra.

The gum would not only be easier on the stomach, it would work faster than Viagra’s little blue pill.

In the patent application, Wrigley states that a man would need to chew the gum for two minutes about a half-hour prior to sex, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, which first reported the patent grant Thursday.

Unless taken on an empty stomach, Viagra can take an hour or more to start working, according to manufacturer Pfizer.

The anti-impotence drug has been a medical phenomenon since it became available

Wrigley spokesman Christopher Perille played down the anti-impotence gum, noting that it’s only one of dozens of patents the gum maker files every year. The anti-impotence gum would be Wrigley’s first medicine-dispensing product.

“There’s a significant difference between securing a patent and developing a product,” said Perille. “There’ no work being done on a product [containing sildenafil citrate], nor is any currently anticipated.”

That’s probably because Pfizer’s patent for Viagra lasts until 2011 when other generic versions would become available.

Pfizer doesn’t offer, or have to plans to sell the pill in any other form.

“It’s not something we’re involved in,” a spokesman for Pfizer’s Viagra said of the Wrigley patent.

The Sun-Times article stated that Wrigley would need clearance from the federal Food and Drug Administration before marketing the gum, which would likely require a prescription.

“They would have to prove that this new delivery form would actually work,” a spokeswoman for the FDA told the newspaper.

Although the Wrigley spokesman says a gum for erectile dysfunction has “uncertain commercial potential,” Viagra has certainly been a winner for Pfizer.

Global sales of Viagra topped $1.7 billion last year and Pfizer boasts that “nine of the pills are dispensed every second.

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