Image: Viagra pills
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Demand for Viagra, the erection-enhancing drug, was strongest last year the week before Valentine's Day.
Image: JoNel Aleccia
By JoNel Aleccia Health writer
msnbc.com
updated 2/10/2011 8:17:21 AM ET 2011-02-10T13:17:21

Valentine’s Day is notorious for spiking sales of chocolates, roses and Hallmark cards, but new research shows that demand also rises for a surprising lovers’ secret: erectile dysfunction drugs. 

In 2010, the week before Valentine’s Day saw more prescriptions written for erection-enhancing Viagra than any other week of the year, according to figures compiled by the firm Wolters Kluwer Pharma Solutions.

Some 199,450 prescriptions were logged totaling 1.34 million of the famous little blue pills the week of Feb. 5, 2010. That’s nearly 26 percent more Viagra than the lowest-use week of the year, Nov. 26, 2010 — Thanksgiving week, when extended families typically gather.

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Overall, the week before Valentine’s Day is among the top weeks of the year for demand for all male sex-enhancing drugs, with 396,670 total prescriptions logged representing about 2.9 million doses. That's nearly 100,000 more pills and injections — and potential love connections — than in an average week.

The reason for the rise is simple, said Dr. Irwin Goldstein, a urologist and director of the San Diego Sexual Medicine center at Alvarado Hospital.

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'It's Viagra Day'
“It’s not Valentine’s Day, it’s Viagra Day,” joked Goldstein. “Valentine’s Day is the one day in the 365-day calendar where interest in intimacy and romance is memorialized.”

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In fact, for men — and women — in relationships, expectations are high for having sex on Feb. 14, said Debby Herbenick, associate director of The Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Research from a not-yet published study asked couples who have sex infrequently to say what prompted their most recent encounter, said Herbenick, who is also a sexual health educator with the renowned Kinsey Institute.

Overwhelmingly, the top reason for recent sex was Valentine’s Day, she said. 

“It’s kind of like birthday sex or Christmas sex,” said Herbenick, who was not surprised at the spike in ED demand. “This is an opportunity that only comes up occasionally and they want to be prepared.”

Viagra, the brand name for the drug sildenafil citrate, is clearly the industry leader for Valentine’s Day ardor. Two other erectile dysfunction drugs available in the U.S., Cialis and Levitra, posted strong but not peak demand before Feb. 14.

The drug Cialis, or tadalafil, for instance, which boasts longer-lasting effects than the four hours promised by Viagra, was most in demand the week of Sept. 3, 2010 — right before the three-day Labor Day weekend.

A little extra oomph
Goldstein says there’s nothing wrong with men seeking a little extra oomph to help with their Valentine’s Day demands.

“We finally have safe and simple oral pills to improve sexual function,” he said.

For one 68-year-old man who suffers from ED, being able to perform well sexually on Valentine’s Day is just another flourish, like a nice dinner or champagne.

The San Diego man is shy about sharing his name, but he underwent penile implant surgery last month with the express aim of sharing a romantic Valentine's weekend with his new girlfriend, 53. He’d previously used ED pills and injections and he absolutely understands why other men would want to stock up for Feb. 14.

“It’s kind of like getting the roses,” said the man, who ,is still healing but has booked a room for next weekend at a romantic San Francisco hotel. “It’s something extra for Valentine’s Day.”

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