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Tuesday, 10 April, 2001, 00:31 GMT 01:31 UK
Viagra alternative 'looks promising'
Vardenafil appears to be a safe drug
An alternative to the anti-impotence drug Viagra has produced encouraging results in clinical trials.

In a large-scale patient study, Vardenafil, developed by the pharmaceutical firm Bayer, improved erectile function in up to 80% of patients - with none of the side effects associated with Viagra.

Three-quarters of patients who took 20mg doses of the drug were able to have successful sexual intercourse by the end of the three-month study.

Erectile function difficulties are a widespread disorder that can have a sustained impact on the health

Dr David Ebsworth, Bayer
Before treatment, just one third were able to have full sex.

The research indicated that Vardenafil has no adverse impact on the cardiovascular system.

Doctors are told not to prescribe Viagra for men taking nitrate drugs for heart conditions because it acts to lower blood pressure.

The government, fearful that excessive demand would place a great financial strain on the health service, has also decided that Viagra can only be prescribed on the NHS for men with specific medical conditions.

'Works for all'

Conditions for which Viagra can be prescribed
Multiple sclerosis
Parkinson's Disease
Prostate cancer
Radical pelvic surgery
Renal failure treated by dialysis or transplant
Severe pelvic injury
Single gene neurological disease
Spinal cord injury
Spina bifida
Vardenafil appears to work for men regardless of what caused their impotence, its severity, and how old they were.

The research was based on a group of 580 patients between the ages of 21 and 70 who were involved in stable heterosexual relationships, but who had suffered from impotence problems for an average of 2.8 years.

Some cases were linked to physical problems, others to psychological problems and some appeared to be caused by a mixture of both.

Bayer expects to start making the drug available next year.

Dr David Ebsworth, general manager of Bayer's global Pharmaceuticals Business Group, said: "Erectile function difficulties are a widespread disorder that can have a sustained impact on the health and day-to-day life of men and their partners.

"Only a small percentage of men currently receive the proper treatment.

"Doctors need more therapy options and we hope to meet this requirement with our new substance."

Drug welcomed

Mr Derek Machin, clinical director of urology at University Hospital, Aintree, told BBC News Online that Viagra was not suitable for a significant proportion of patients.

Apart from those taking nitrates, it simply did not work for around 10% of people who took it. In addition, some patients complain that it causes severe headaches.

Mr Machin said: "For these people the only alternatives are injectables, which are not an attractive alternative to oral preparations.

"As a doctor you always hope to get a selection of drugs with different modes of action so that you can find something that is suitable for patients who cannot take the standard provision."

It is estimated that half of all men over the age of 40 currently suffer from mild to severe erectile function difficulties.

Around 300,000 NHS prescriptions for Viagra, which is made by pharmaceutical giants Pfizer, are handed out in the UK each year.

Details of the new clinical trials were presented at the Congress of the European Association of Urology in Geneva.

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11 Sep 00 | Health
Men 'embarrassed' about Viagra
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