How will male General Motorsretirees get their motor runnin'?
There's been a lot of buzz around the CNBC newsroom and a certain amount of banter on our air today regarding a nugget in this Wall Street Journal piece about GM retirees facing a hard choice.
Do they start paying for their impotence drugs out of their own pocket? Because apparently, under the new deal the company won't pick up the tab anymore.
GM has been the largest private purchaser of ED (erectile dysfunction) pills. The last published estimate I can find is from 2006 when GM reportedly bought $17 million worth of Pfizer's Viagra. When I asked a Pfizer spokesperson if that number's accurate I was told, "No comment." She read me a brief company statement in response to my inquiry about how many of the little blue pills PFE sells to GM: "We don't discuss our relationships with our customers."
But even if the $17 million from a few years ago is right, it's a drop in the bucket. Pfizer sold nearly $2 billion worth of Viagra last year. Eli Lilly sold $1.4 billion worth of Cialis. Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline and Schering-Plough share Levitra, but the sales numbers are very low. So, even if you were to assume a worst-case scenario where all of those GM ED sales would go away, it wouldn't be financially material for the companies. Still, these days the big drug companies need to hang onto every little bit of revenue they can.
Now, the cost to the mens' relationships is another story.
But at least one drug industry analyst agrees with me that the impotence pills will be one of the last things the guys will decide to go without. Yeah, they might cut more of them in half, but I don't think they're going to stop buying them.
Maybe Pfizer and Lilly should consider doing a special GM retiree rebate program to try to make sure they don't lose the business.
Doctors and the drug companies say impotence can be an underlying symptom of more serious health problems. But you know this latest move by GM is going to result in some new late-night TV show punchlines.
On Jay Leno's last night on "The Tonight Show" the UAW and GM have just thrown some very rich material into his, uh, lap.