`Painless' jab to compete with Viagra

THOUSANDS OF impotent men could soon be able to boost their sexual performances by painlessly injecting a Viagra-type drug directly into the penis.

A small pharmaceutical company yesterday revealed that it was close to developing an "impotence kit" to compete with the diamond-shaped tablet in the $1bn (pounds 600m) a year market for impotence drugs.

The kit will include a "needleless syringe" which uses a burst of helium to "inject" a dose of Alprostadil, an anti-impotence compound, directly into the penis without the pain and the risks associated with "normal" injections.

Alprostadil is a fast-acting drug - it can be used 10 minutes before sexual intercourse to achieve maximum results, according to doctors.

Viagra users have to plan at least an hour ahead.

Powderject Pharmaceuticals, the company behind the revolutionary treatment, yesterday said that preliminary trials of the syringe and the drug showed that it was "effective and well tolerated".

The company will start further trials in March and it plans to launch the kit on the market by 2001.

Paul Drayson, the chief executive of Powderject, said that Alprostadil will be targeted to the thousands of men who cannot take Viagra because of its side effects.

It is estimated that around half of all men over the age of 40 are affected by some form of impotence.

However, around 20 per cent of sufferers are not allowed to take Viagra because of the risks of heart attack or damage to their vision.

Alprostadil is currently used with conventional syringes to trigger erections. However, very few men use it regularly because it is a painful and frightening procedure.

"No one likes to inject their penis with a sharp needle", Mr Drayson said. However, the Powderject method should minimise the risk and the pain.

The company claims that the the needleless syringe is entirely pain-free and users feel no more than a "slight warming up of the exposed area".

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