GPs share Viagra abuse worries

THE GOVERNING body for family doctors met yesterday to discuss the "huge potential" for misuse of the anti-impotence drug Viagra.

The Royal College of General Practitioners called the meeting in London after the Government temporarily banned prescription of the drug on the NHS.

Some 2.5 million men in the United Kingdom are thought to be impotent and the decision by Frank Dobson, the Health Secretary, 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 40 each.

Many GPs have been confused by the ban on prescribing Viagra except in "exceptional circumstances". The meeting was expected to result in a call for clearer guidelines before the department's final decision, due in the next few weeks.

GPs might also call for national guidelines on prescribing, rather than leaving it up to local authorities, so that people are not discriminated against on the basis of where they live.

Another concern is that men who are not genuinely impotent may demand the drug to enhance their sexual performance.

Dr Jim Kennedy, a member of the prescribing committee of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said one of the main problems was that there was no specific medical means of establishing whether a man suffered from impotence.

There are also worries over patients demanding the drug even though it has been linked to a small number of heart attacks among men in the US.

The GP committee also considered the drug's cost to the NHS - which has been put at around pounds 1bn.

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