More MS news articles for February 2001

UK urged to drop Viagra restrictions for impotence

Wednesday February 7, 11:58 AM

LONDON, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Doctors, patients and support groups urged the government on Wednesday to drop its restrictions on the use of the anti-impotence drug Viagra on the National Health Service.

"We have repeatedly stressed to the government our concerns about treatments for erectile dysfunction," said Dr John Chisholm of the British Medical Association.

"In dressing up a rationing decision as a clinical one, the government has ended up with the worst of all possible worlds: a decision that makes no sense on clinical equity, or cost effectiveness grounds," he said in a statement.

The government introduced the restrictions after Viagra was launched in Britain in 1999 amid fears that treatment costs on the NHS would soar to 10 times the usual amount.

Free prescriptions for the blue pills were limited to men who have been treated for prostate cancer and sufferers of conditions such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease.

Doctors, patients and the drug's U.S. maker Pfizer condemned the decision at the time, saying the drug should be prescribed for everyone who needed it.

Chisholm, who was responding to a government consultation on impotence treatments, said the policy means that patients with equal clinical needs are treated differently.

"For example, treatment is currently denied to patients suffering as a result of cardiovascular disease, one of the most common causes of erectile dysfunction," he added.

Patients who do not qualify to receive Viagra on the NHS can have the drug prescribed through private doctors but many find the five pound ($7.30) cost of each pill expensive.