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Tuesday, July 7, 1998 Published at 07:18 GMT 08:18 UK

Health: Latest News

Fear over Viagra stampede

GPs are worried about the cost of funding Viagra

The BBC's Fergus Walsh on Viagra
Doctors are to warn that, unless the government issues guidelines on the prescription of impotence wonder drug Viagra, it will lead to "sex by postcode".

Matlock GP Dr Peter Holden will warn the British Medical Association's annual conference in Cardiff that, if Viagra is made available on the NHS, it would lead to regional variations in its availability.

Dr Holden said some GPs would not be able to afford to prescribe the drug which, at around 120 for 30 tablets, was so expensive it could potentially quadruple the drugs bill.


The BBC's Richard Hannaford on the Viagra debate
He wants guidelines on which men should get the drug and how much of the cost the government is prepared to fund.

Some doctors say as many as one in 10 British men may suffer from impotence, although others say the number is more likely to be around one in six.

Dr Holden says Viagra's effectiveness should be judged on whether it reduces hospital admissions, GP visits and other management costs.

[ image: Dr Peter Holden fears 'sex by postcode']
Dr Peter Holden fears 'sex by postcode'
BMA representatives will discuss a motion calling for the government to urgently review the mechanism for the introduction of newly licensed, expensive drugs into clinical practice.

Health Secretary Frank Dobson said recently that he did not believe Viagra should be freely available on the NHS.

It is expected to be licensed for general sale in Europe in the autumn.

Dr Peter Holden says guidelines are needed on Viagra
At present, Viagra is only available from selected doctors and patients have to pay for it. The doctors take responsibility for any health problems which may develop as a result of taking the drug.

In the USA, the Food and Drug Administration is investigating the deaths of around 20 people who have used Viagra. Manufacturer Pfizer warns patients not to mix the drug, which was originally developed to fight low blood pressure, with nitrate-based drugs.

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