BBC NEWS
BBCi CATEGORIES   TV   RADIO   COMMUNICATE   WHERE I LIVE   INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC News UK Edition
 You are in: Special Report: 1998: Viagra  
News Front Page
World
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
UK Politics
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
Education
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
CBBC News
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Viagra Tuesday, 11 May, 1999, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
Viagra 'limited to cut cost'
Viagra
The government anticipated a huge demand for Viagra
The government put restrictions on the NHS prescription of Viagra because it feared a rush for the drug would create huge expense, a High Court judge was told on Tuesday.

The fears were described during a legal challenge to the Government's original decision to issue advice limiting the NHS availability of the anti-impotence drug.

Mr Justice Collins reserved judgment following a two-day hearing.

Pfizer Ltd, manufacturers of the drug, attacked a health service circular issued last September advising doctors not to prescribe Viagra, unless in exceptional circumstances.

David Pannick QC, for the company, said Health Secretary Frank Dobson had acted outside his powers by effectively using the circular to impose a ban.

He had also acted in breach of EU law as he attempted to prevent the best-selling love drug becoming a "serious drain" on NHS funds, said the QC.

Presiley Baxendale QC, appearing for the Health Secretary, said worldwide publicity about the Viagra had led to fears that doctors would come under huge pressure to prescribe the drug, particularly as it has been suggested it could enhance sexual performance.

Ms Baxendale said: "I accept the Secretary of State was very concerned about resources."

It was feared that, if action was not taken, Viagra could have cost the NHS between 60m and 125m a year.

Ms Baxendale said she accepted the aim of the circular was to "deter the rush", but there was a difference between a ban and something which was interim advice and guidance while consultations took place before a final policy was decided upon.

The advice did not stop GPs exercising their judgment, but at the same time they were perfectly entitled to take it into account.

Unlawful interference

Mr Pannick said he accepted that the circular was not a ban, as such, but its effect was to act as a ban - "and that was what was intended".

This unlawfully interfered with a doctor's "statutory right and legal duty to prescribe according to their assessment of clinical need."

If the Health Secretary wanted to impose restrictions, the correct course was to obtain Parliamentary approval and place the drug on the relevant medical schedule.

Mr Dobson had now shown an "impeccable sense of timing" by announcing last Friday that he proposed to take that course of action, said Mr Pannick

Since the September guidance was issued, the government has published its views on which patients should receive Viagra.

Last week, it increased the number of men who could get the drug.

They include men with diabetes, prostate cancer and Parkinson's Disease.

Impotence experts say the list is still restrictive and discriminatory.

Reserving judgment, the judge said he hoped to give his decision on the challenge within a month.

Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Viagra stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Viagra stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | World | UK | England | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales |
UK Politics | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology |
Health | Education | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes