Viagra demand less than predicted

GOVERNMENT FORECASTS that doctors would be swamped with demands for Viagra prescriptions for recreational use rather than for impotency treatment have been challenged by research.

Of 250 GPs surveyed, only one in 15 noted an increase in the number of men with normal sexual potency seeking treatment for impotence.

The Government is proposing to restrict NHS anti- impotence treatment to men with a narrow range of medical conditions. Medical experts are alarmed, and say that 40,000 men currently receiving impotence treatment - 85 per cent of the total - could be denied it because of inaccurate estimates that Viagra could cost the NHS between pounds 50m and pounds 125m a year.

"These findings put to death the myth that was propagated by the Government that there would be huge numbers of men seeking treatment for erectile dysfunction when they didn't actually suffer from it," said Dr Ian Banks, British Medical Association spokesman on men's health. "GPs are perfectly capable of diagnosing those patients who are genuinely suffering from impotence."

The consultation period for the new government proposals ends today. They would mean that men suffering from spinal cord injuries, diabetes and rare nerve disorders would be eligible for NHS treatment, while those made impotent because of cancer treatment, heart disease or psychological problems would not be.

Two surveys - one commissioned by Pfizer, the Viagra manufacturer, and the other conducted by Mori - suggest that both public and professional opinion opposes the restrictions. Eight out of 10 adults surveyed by Mori said couples unable to have sex because of male impotence should be able to receive NHS help. More than 8 out of 10 said they thought it unfair that men who became impotent because of a spinal injury could get NHS treatment while those whose impotence was linked to cancer could not.

John Pryor, chairman of the Impotence Association and a consultant urologist, said: "Discrimination is unacceptable and we must insist that newly diagnosed sufferers and their partners receive the treatment they deserve on the NHS and that the right of those who are already receiving treatment is safeguarded."

Ben Huczek, a 46-year-old business consultant from East Sheen, south- west London, is among those who would not receive treatment under the new guidelines. He first experienced problems six years ago.

"Impotence took over nearly every aspect of my life, causing constant feelings of inadequacy and depression," he said. "Treatment has allowed me to become a functioning member of society again. I don't know what I will do if my treatment is stopped."

Dr Stephen Ladyman, Labour MP for Thanet South, said: "While the Government was right to subject these guidelines to consultation it is absolutely clear that, as they stand, they are both flawed and contradictory."

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