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