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Viagra Friday, 12 March, 1999, 17:02 GMT
Viagra ban backed by GPs
Viagra
Viagra means extra work for GPs
A poll of doctors commissioned by the BBC has found that more than three-quarters of GPs agree with the government's temporary moratorium on the prescription of the anti-impotence drug Viagra.

Seventy-four percent of GPs agree with the existing rules, which state that Viagra can only be prescribed free on the National Health Service in "exceptional circumstances".

The poll of 100 GPs, conducted for BBC Radio 4's Today programme, also found that one in 10 expect more than 15 patients to consult them about Viagra prescription in the first weeks after it becomes available in the UK on Tuesday.

Doctors were asked two questions:

1) Based on your knowledge of your population and your previous enquiries about this drug from your practice patients, what level of demand do you expect?

More than 50% of GPs placed demand at nought to five patients, a third said five to 15 patients and just over 10% said more than 15 patients.

One doctor said he expected "at least 30" enquiries in the next few weeks.

The figures suggest that nearly half of GPs believe demand for Viagra will exceed the number of patients currently listed on their registers as suffering from some form of impotence.

2) Should erectile dysfunction be treated on the NHS?

Seventy-four percent agreed that Viagra should only be prescribed for reasons of fertility or "organic impotence" - for example impotence caused by diabetes - but not for psychological or stress disorders.

Dr Ian Boggle
Dr Ian Bogle: Surprised
A large number of GPs polled - 24% - said Viagra should not be available on prescription "under any circumstances".

Most doctors opposed prescription for "recreational use".

BMA spokesman Dr Ian Bogle said he was surprised that nearly a quarter of his colleagues took such a strong line against prescription.

"I think we lose sight of the fact that this is a major advance in the treatment of a very distressing condition - erectile dysfunction," he said.

Possible rationing

Secretary of State for Health, Frank Dobson, is awaiting the findings of the Standing Medical Advisory Committee on Viagra before deciding whether or not to prioritise or ration supplies of the drug.

Dr Bogle urged Mr Dobson to make a decision before demand spirals out of control.

He said: "I wouldn't argue with a nought to five demand in the beginning, but I think there will be an increase in those figures as it becomes known that Viagra is now available.

"Then, of course, when and if the Secretary of State intervenes, that will not make a difference to the figures."

15 a pill

Viagra is already being sold at walk-in private clinics around the country.

The private chain of Medicentres, which has clinics in train stations and shopping centres, is selling the drug at 15 a pill after a 120 consultation.

Viagra was given the green light by the European Union earlier this meonth.

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