Judge bans Viagra on Net

THE OPERATOR of an Internet website that offers the impotence drug Viagra for sale was ordered yesterday to stop trading by a High Court judge.

Dean Sithwentis, trading as Viagra-plus, was banned by Mr Justice Rattee from marketing any pharmaceutical preparations by reference to the name Viagra. The injunction was granted to Viagra manufacturer Pfizer, which wants to stop sales not under prescription.

The decision marks the latest stage in the company'sstruggle to protect the trade name for the drug sildenafil, which has caused its shares to rocket since it was approved for sale in the US in March.

A spokesman for Pfizer said that the company had followed up roughly 100 different instances of infringements of the Viagra trademark in Britain this year alone. "There are websites, Viagra joke books, all sorts of things," he said. "Usually it stops after one letter from our lawyers pointing out the infringement. But with others we have to take it further."

Yesterday's case was believed to be the first injunction in Britain against a website, though there have been a number of cases in America.

The court was told that Mr Sithwentis's website, which is hosted in the US, advertised pornographic services as well as Viagra, which was plainly being supplied without prescription."It is criminal activity and should be stopped," the Pfizer spokesman said. Viagra is now licensed in the UK but is not yet available on the NHS and is only being sold privately in limited circumstances.

Mr Sithwentis, of Wolverhampton, who was not present or represented, was "very hard to catch". He appeared to run his business by mobile phone from wherever he happened to be, the court was told.

One of Pfizer's concerns was that it could face adverse claims if problems arose from somebody taking Viagra without medical advice. The injunction is effective until a further court hearing next Monday.

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