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Wednesday, May 20, 1998 Published at 14:05 GMT 15:05 UK


Egypt cracks down on Viagra
image: [ Lots of publicity and a seemingly desperate market have boosted black market sales of Viagra in Egypt ]
Lots of publicity and a seemingly desperate market have boosted black market sales of Viagra in Egypt

By the BBC Middle East correspondent Jim Muir in Cairo

The failure of the Middle East peace process and other such weighty preoccupations have been pushed aside in Cairo's crowded streets and cafes by the new talk of the town, the male potency dug, Viagra.

Although it hasn't yet been registered and given the necessary approval by the authorities, large quantities of the drug seem to have made their way onto the Egyptian market by illicit channels.

Until officials caught on, it was being sold openly and highly profitably by pharmacies in many parts of the city, especially the richer ones. But, earlier this week, raids were staged and a number of arrests were made.

The government has also put new legislation to parliament calling for stiffer penalties for those caught selling unlicensed drugs.

The crackdown has caused black market prices to rise and has stirred widespread anger among the thousands of males apparently willing to pay as much as 30 dollars for a single pill.

Some Egyptian newspapers urged the government to speed up the approval process, arguing that unsupervised use of the drug could endanger lives. Others applauded the ban, saying that Egypt was being taken for a ride by pharmaceutical mafia.

Fo the profiteers, it's an ideal situation: a banned drug, lots of publicity and a seemingly desperate market.

Whatever else, the Viagra furore has highlighted the apparently high incidence of male impotence.

Popular suspicions have been voiced that Cairo's high pollution levels might have something to do with it.

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