Viagra death toll in US reaches 16

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The Independent Online
DEATHS AMONG American users of the impotence drug Viagra have risen to 16, it emerged yesterday.

Seven of the deaths reportedly occurred during or after intercourse, highlighting the risks of sexual exertion for older men, with or without a pill.

The Food and Drug Administration, which posted details of the deaths on its Internet site, said there was no evidence that Viagra itself is dangerous, but it repeated warnings of a potential fatal interaction with drugs containing nitrates taken by heart patients. Two of the deaths have been linked with nitrate drugs.

Pfizer, which manufacturers Viagra, revealed that 1.7 million prescriptions for the new treatment have been issued in the United States, the only country where the drug is currently licensed, since its launch in March. It is expected to be licensed in the United Kingdom later this year.

Doctors say that men are ignoring the risks and in some cases concealing heart problems to get their hands on the drug. "I've had a lot of patients say, 'If I have to go, that's the way I want to go'," said Dr Ira Sharlip of San Francisco, an adviser on impotence to the American Urological Association.

Dr William Steers, the University of Virginia's urology chairman, said: "I've taken prescriptions out of two patients' hands who lied about using nitroglycerin because they wanted Viagra so badly. Men value sexuality over general health ... They are going to have this regardless of the consequences."

Nine of the 16 men who died already had heart disease. Their ages ranged from 48 to 80 with most in their 60s and 70s.

"There's no direct link [to Viagra], but we are going to continue to monitor these reports," said an FDA spokeswoman. "The bottom line is, patients need to talk with their health-care provider and read warning labels before taking this."

More deaths are expected because the drug is targeted at older men among whom impotence is commonest but who are at greatest risk of a heart attack.

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