Free-for-all Viagra after court ruling

THE DEPARTMENT of Health said last night that men should not expect a Viagra free-for-all during the next five weeks, even though a High Court judge ruled yesterday that the Government had acted illegally in trying to restrict access to the anti-impotence drug.

The ruling means that almost two million impotent men have the right to NHS prescriptions for Viagra until 1 July. But a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "We would expect GPs to follow the prescribing advice as if the July guidelines were already in force."

Mr Justice Collins ruled that interim advice to doctors by Frank Dobson, the Secretary of State for Health, in a circular last September had been unlawful. The circular, issued as the drug received its UK licence, urged doctors not to prescribe Viagra on the NHS other than in "exceptional circumstances" until guidance on its use had been agreed by the Department of Health.

That guidance, announced on 7 May, will restrict the prescribing of Viagra to a narrowly defined group amounting to 17 per cent of the 1.8 million men estimated to be suffering from impotence. It is due to come into force on 1 July.

In the meantime, yesterday's judgment leaves GPs free to prescribe the drug on the NHS to any man who, in their professional judgement, has a clinical need. It was because the interim advice appeared to overrule the professional wisdom of doctors that the judge found against the Government.

GPs are obliged under their terms of service to provide the best available treatment to each patient on the basis of their clinical need. Department of Health officials estimate that 55 per cent of GPs have prescribed the drug.

The judgment does not affect the Government's ability to ration new drugs nor does it challenge the new restrictions on Viagra, which are being introduced, legally, on 1 July. But it does remind ministers that they must follow correct legal steps for decisions of this kind.

The British Medical Association said yesterday that the judgment was in line with its own legal advice, which led it to advise GPs that they had a right and a duty to prescribe the drug to patients in clinical need.

Ian Bogle, chairman of the BMA, said: "This should ensure that rationing decisions aren't taken like this again. What the Government did was illegal." Dr Bogle does not expect a rush for Viagra in the next five weeks.

"GPs will need to explain to their patients that even if they may be eligible for the drug now they will have to pay for it after 1 July [unless they are in the eligible group]. I don't think the floodgates will open," he said.

Pfizer, the drug's manufacturer, is considering whether to sue the Government over alleged lost sales. The company estimates that the market for Viagra would grow to pounds 50m after five years if prescribing were allowed to all in clinical need. This is far lower than predictions by some doctors of over pounds 100m in the first year. The guidelines taking effect in July will limit total spending on all impotence treatments to pounds 14m, pounds 2m more than at present.

Pfizer accepted in court that the Government had a legal right to restrict prescribing of the drug by using the formal procedure of allocating it to Schedule 11 of the drugs list. Schedule 11 drugs may only be prescribed to certain groups of patients or in certain circumstances. However, a Pfizer spokesman said the company was also considering whether to seek a judicial review of this ruling.

"We do believe that the Schedule 11 restrictions are unfair and discriminatory and that the drug should be available to all men with a clinical need for it. We are considering all avenues open to us to achieve that," he said.

Leading article,

Review, page 3

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living