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Wednesday, March 10, 1999 Published at 18:08 GMT


Public reject Viagra clampdown

The public think the government's policy on Viagra is wrong

The public is overwhelmingly opposed to the government's plan to restrict NHS prescription of Viagra and other impotence treatments, a survey has found.

The Department of Health has proposed that impotence treatments should only be available on prescription from GPs for men with the following conditions:

  • Diabetes
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Single gene neurological disease
  • Spinal cord injury.

Men who have had radical pelvic surgery or had their prostate removed will also qualify.

But a MORI poll, based on interviews with 501 adults, shows that 85% of adults in the UK think it is unfair that men with impotence due to a spinal cord injury should receive treatment for impotence on the NHS, whereas men whose condition is caused by cancer treatments are not eligible for NHS treatment.

Eight out of 10 adults (79%) also felt it unfair that impotence caused by diabetes and not heart disease could warrant NHS treatment.

The survey was highlighted at the annual conference of the Impotence Association, where members called on the government to re-think its proposals, which are currently out for consultation until 28 March.

The Department of Health says the consultation period was extended because of the "volume of interest" in the issue.

Short-sighted proposal

Dr Ian Banks, chairman of the Men's Health Forum, who attended the conference, said: "I am deeply concerned about the short-sighted government proposals on the treatment of erectile dysfunction in general practice.

"When men visit their GP for treatment of erectile dysfunction, it presents a golden opportunity for picking up undiagnosed, underlying conditions which, when treated early, can make enormous savings both in money and human suffering."

Sex therapist Victoria Lehmann said women can often suffer as much as the man, feeling guilty, depressed and rejected because their partners are too embarrassed to discuss the problem.

"A vicious circle evolves and the relationship can fall apart very quickly", she said.

Clive Gingell, told the conference that the licensing of Viagra in the UK had helped bring erectile dysfunction "out of the closet".

"New and more convenient medical therapies should be welcomed, not put on the backburner as the Department of Health is doing," he said.

"According to the principle of the NHS, individuals should be prescribed treatment based on clinical need, decided by their family doctor. What the government proposes on the subject of impotence flies in the face of this principle."

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