Male potency drug available in five weeks

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The Independent Online
VIAGRA, THE impotence drug, may be available on prescription in Britain in about five weeks.

A European Commission standing committee will hold the final licensing hearing in London today and, barring unforeseen complications, Pfizer, the British manufacturer of the drug, expects a "positive outcome".

A spokesman said: "This should be one of the last hurdles for us. We may well have to answer some additional questions during the hearing, but we think we can do that."

If there are no last-minute hitches, the licence recommendation will go forward tomorrow to a European Commissioner for rubber stamping. This process usually takes about two weeks.

"After that, Pfizer believes it will probably take another three weeks or so to organise distribution and all the legally required printed information for GPs in this country. So we are looking at starting to supply shops by around 6 September," the spokesman added.

Once the drug receives a licence, doctors will be able to prescribe the drug as they see fit, although patients will have to wait until at least next month to pick up the product.

Pfizer stresses that its scientists applied for a British licence in late summer last year, at exactly the same time they approached the authorities in the United States. However, due to the comparatively arcane nature of the European system, the drug has so far taken almost six months longer to get to the point of sale in Europe.

"It has been about a year since Pfizer first took the matter to the European Commission and that is a fairly average length of time for the licensing of any drug here," said the spokesman.