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Friday, June 26, 1998 Published at 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK


Viagra hit squad gets down to work

Viagra hit squads will crack down on illegal sales

A special inquiry unit has been set up to track down people who are illegally selling the impotence drug Viagra.

The unit will be part of the Medicines Control Agency and will trace people selling Viagra in adverts or on the Internet.

They could face prosecution since the drug has not been licensed in the UK or anywhere else in Europe. Under the 1969 Medicines Act, selling unlicensed drugs can lead to a maximum two-year prison sentence or a fine.

So far the Medicines Control Agency says it has had around a dozen reports of illegal trading which it is looking into.

Named patient

Viagra can only currently be sold in the UK by doctors on a 'named patient' basis, with the doctors taking individual responsibility if anything goes wrong.

The US Food and Drug Administration is investigating a handful of deaths said to be linked to the drug which has taken the world by storm.

Hundreds of Internet sites have been selling Viagra and medical experts are worried that buyers are not being given the counselling they need before purchasing them.

Manufacturer Pfizer warns, for example, that it should not be combined with drugs which contain nitrates as it could bring the blood pressure down to unsafe levels. Viagra was originally developed as a drug to lower blood pressure.

No increase in sexual prowess

The government is still considering whether Viagra should be made available on the NHS where there is a clinical need for it. Doctors estimate that around one in 10 British men suffers from impotence.

But experts stress that the drug is solely for impotence and does not increase sexual prowess or fertility - as the furore over the little blue pills has led people to believe.

Anyone with any information on illegal sales of Viagra is asked to ring the new unit on 0171 273 0617.



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