Dobson delays Viagra on NHS

THOUSANDS OF impotence sufferers face a delay of up to a month before they know whether they can obtain the controversial drug Viagra on the NHS.

The drug is to be given its European licence today by officials in Brussels. Yesterday's decision by Frank Dobson, the Health Secretary, to impose a temporary ban on its use on the NHS will mean a bonanza for private clinics and the black market, where the little blue pills have been available for months at up to pounds 50 each.

Mr Dobson said expectations of the drug were so high that it could seriously drain NHS funds. "Other patients could be denied the treatment they need. I cannot allow this to happen. The potential availability of this drug raises issues about the priority which should be given to the treatment of impotence on the NHS."

Doctors estimated that the drug could cost the NHS more than pounds 1bn, but that was if every one of the 2.5 million impotent men in the UK came forward for treatment and wanted sex four times a week. A more conservative estimate by the manufacturer, Pfizer, based on 30 per cent of affected men seeking treatment and wanting sex once a week, suggested that the cost might reach pounds 50m a year after five years - still four times the existing spending on treatments for impotence.

Mr Dobson said "definitive guidance" would be issued in the next few weeks, but in the meantime doctors should not prescribe Viagra save in "exceptional circumstances".

Ministers are determined to squash any perception of Viagra as a recreational drug. Alan Milburn, the health minister, has already indicated that prescribing will be restricted to hospital specialists only, but specific advice is still awaited from the Standing Medical Advisory Committee.

Ministers are hoping that, after the expected surge of interest in the drug once it is licensed, demand will subside. In the US, where Viagra was launched last March, demand soared for the first three months, but fell suddenly as American men realised they did not want as much sex as they thought.

A spokesman for Pfizer said the natural effects of ageing and embarrassment over seeking help conspired to curb demand. "Let's face it, a lot of men are no longer interested in sex when they get older. It's a fact," he said. Derek Machin, secretary of the British Urological Association and a consultant urologist in Liverpool, said the temporary ban would put GPs in an untenable position.

"People who have had their expectations raised are going to go to their doctors to be told they can't get it," he said. "We have known for two years that this drug was coming and the day before it is licensed the Government says it hasn't had time to sort it out. I am not impressed."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Sport
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Bob Dylan
art
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?