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Tuesday, June 2, 1998 Published at 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK


Cure for middle-aged blues?

The little blue pills making news around the world


Dr Richard Petty and Dr Rosemary Leonard debate viagra
The rush for impotence cure Viagra has led one British doctor to try the so-called miracle pill for himself.

Dr Richard Petty, medical director of the WellMan Clinic in London, said he tried the little blue pills because his patients deserved to know if there were any side-effects.


[ image: Dr Richard Petty tried Viagra out]
Dr Richard Petty tried Viagra out
He confirmed that the drug works, even though he does not have an impotence problem and took the pill on top of a big spicey meal.

Viagra, which can cost up to 18 a pill at some UK clinics, should be taken one hour before sex and works for up to four hours. It is most effective in the first two hours after it has been popped.

Popping a pill

GP Dr Rosemary Leonard said most men liked the idea of being able to swallow a pill to cure their impotence rather than submit themselves to the injections and vacuum-type devices that are the current alternatives.

She said there was a new pellet-type device which could be inserted into the penis that might be more acceptable to men, but even so Viagra seemed a better option.

"Just to pop a pill is so much easier," she said, calling impotence a "silent, hidden problem" which most men do not like to admit.

One in 10

Doctors believe about three million, or one in 10 men suffer from impotence in the UK - most of them middle-aged.

Viagra is due to be licensed in the UK in October, but it is still unclear whether it will be prescribed on the NHS.


[ image: Dr Rosemary Leonard is horrified about internet sales]
Dr Rosemary Leonard is horrified about internet sales
But already men are flocking to buy the 'wonder drug' from clinics, overseas and through the internet. According to a report in the Sun, there are over 1,000 Websites featuring Viagra.

Dr Leonard says she finds the prospect of ordering the drug over the internet with no medical checks "absolutely horrifying".

Dr Petty says a medical check-up is vital since there is usually an underlying health problem behind impotence anyway.

And then there is the general stress associated with a drug which makes 60-year-olds feel like 20-year-olds.

Problems

Viagra is not without side-effects and its manufacturer, Pfizer, has warned men on drugs containing nitrates and those with low blood pressure to be careful about taking it.

The US Food and Drug Administration is investigating the deaths of six men in connection with use of the drug.

Dr Petty says three of the men died from heart attacks, which he does not think is surprising. He says 13% of heart attacks occur during sexual activity.

And he adds that there is a link between arterial disease and impotence anyway, which means impotence could be a sign of current or future coronary heart disease.



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