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Tuesday, July 7, 1998 Published at 07:10 GMT 08:10 UK


Viagra demand could cause NHS crisis

The demand for Viagra could swamp GPs

Doctors are concerned that demand for the anti-impotence drug, Viagra, could create a crisis for practices when it is licensed later this year.

Dr Peter Holden tells Radio Four's 'Today' why he doesn't want to prescribe Viagra
GPs are discussing the drug at the British Medical Association's annual conference in Cardiff.

Doctors fear that prescribing the drug could eat into budgets for routine treatments and in some cases bankrupt practices.

One in six men is affected by impotence and doctors fear they will be swamped by demand.

[ image: The drug costs £120 for 30 tablets]
The drug costs £120 for 30 tablets
The government has said the impotence drug will be available on the NHS if it is cleared by the safety bodies for prescription in the UK. If licensed Viagra could be available from autumn.

The drug, which costs £120 for 30 tablets compared with the average monthly prescription cost of £9, could quadruple the NHS drugs budget.

The BBC's Health Correspondent Richard Hannaford: "Family doctors are worried demand will bankrupt their budgets"
The BMA conference is expected to call for the government to set guidelines on which men are eligible for the treatment and how much of the drug it is prepared to fund.

Dr Peter Holden, who is addressing the Cardiff conference, says he has 200 patients who might benefit from a Viagra prescription. But he claims that treating them would take up his entire drugs budget.

Dr Holden said: "Taken over the whole health service, we are going to have a very serious funding problem that is going to mean waiting lists are going to rise.

"We are going to start realising choices are going to have to be made.

"Do you want Viagra when you are middle-aged or a hip when you are older or are you prepared to pay more tax."

He is telling the BMA the government must say what it is prepared to pay for, otherwise the cost of prescribing Viagra could be potentially damaging to the budget and financial planning of the NHS.

[ image: Viagra could be available from the autumn]
Viagra could be available from the autumn
The BMA is discussing how the cost of prescribing the drug should be seen in the context of whether it reduced hospital admissions, GP visits and other management costs.

Health Secretary Frank Dobson has warned that men who ask their doctors for Viagra "because they have lost a bit of zeal" should not think they will succeed.

The pharmaceutical companies have defended the price of drugs such as Viagra claiming that the cost is due to years of research and development.

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