A recent article in the New York Times by Alex Berenson talked about how sales of Viagra and other male impotence drugs aren’t all the marketers thought they would be. You might say sales are drooping. It’s not that Viagra, Cialis and Levitra aren’t making a ton of money—sales in 2005 were $2.5 billion—but there just aren’t as many new prescriptions for such drugs as the marketers had predicted.

These days when the marketers are wrong, it’s a big deal. I used to work for a multinational retailer whose managers would profess great concern when sales were less than had been projected by the honchos at headquarters. Of course, sales are affected by all sorts of things, especially the weather, but the employees were made to feel somehow responsible for the store’s not meeting its goal; a silly guilt trip.

There have apparently been reports connecting impotence drugs to blindness. The threat of blindness, hairy palms, and insanity has never made a difference to adolescent boys—or at least it didn’t to me—but old guys are less anxious and more cautious than young ones. Maybe that’s it.

I’ve heard that impotence drugs came about as a way to deal with the decreased libido associated with drugs sold for hypertension, high cholesterol and depression, which have generated huge sales for some years now. Sell them antidepressants, and when the antidepressants shut down their sex life, sell them something for that. Good business.

One hitch may be that Viagra doesn’t make you want to have sex, which I guess is what some men thought. It helps you out once you get started, but you’ve got to get things cranked up on your own. A fast car is useless unless you want to go somewhere.

Of course, part of this is the expectation that everything about business ought to increase—markets, sales, profits—everything but wages. Some things are limited no matter what the marketers want or predict.

My admittedly cursory research leads me to think that perhaps the major reason sales of impotence drugs have softened is that people are starting to listen to the litany of side effects, and so television advertising of those drugs and others isn’t as effective as it once seemed it would be. Some of us just don’t want to take the chance, even for sex, which strikes me as fairly extraordinary.

Pfizer hasn’t given up, though, and hopes to sell impotence drugs to younger men, although the drugs don’t make much difference for them. Pfizer doesn’t care and is beginning two new advertising campaigns to make sure it can “get this category going in the right direction again.” That direction must be down our pants.