Viagra link to five UK deaths UK

VIAGRA, THE anti-impotence treatment that is still officially banned on the NHS, has been linked with five deaths in the UK in the past six months.

Figures obtained by The Independent from the Medicines Control Agency drug licensing body show doctors reported 51 cases of adverse reactions between 1 July and 22 December. They ranged from minor symptoms such as rashes to serious ones such as heart attacks.

In 11 cases men taking the drug suffered heart disorders. Six of them died. But there is no indication whether they already had heart disease or were taking other drugs for a heart problem. The other deaths included a blood clot in the brain and a suicide.

The treatment was licensed in September but ministers advised doctors not to prescribe it on the NHS, other than in "exceptional" circumstances, until further advice was issued.

That is still awaited but several thousand patients are estimated to have obtained it on private prescriptions.

The British Medical Association said the Government's failure to issue guidelines was putting patients at risk. It has threatened to defy the ban on NHS prescribing if it does not issue new advice by Thursday.

George Rae, chairman of the BMA's prescribing committee, said: "The side-effects highlighted by these figures could be worse, because the non-availability of the drug on the NHS is driving people to get it over the Internet. If doctors get the guidelines it will minimise the risk."

David Delvin, director of the Medical Information Service, who has treated 100 private patients with Viagra, said: "This is a very good drug which has helped vast numbers of couples. Serious side-effects are very rare but it is vital that men are properly screened before they go on the pills."

In the US, where it has become the fastest-selling drug in history since its launch last March, Viagra has been linked with 130 deaths. The Food and Drug Administration ordered new labelling for Viagra in November because of the risk to men with heart disorders.

The new warnings make clear that doctors should examine patients with a history of heart problems, and those with very low blood pressure, before deciding whether to prescribe Viagra. However, the FDA has not changed its view that it is safe. Six million prescriptions have been written in the US; the incidence of adverse reactions is low and 70 per cent of men who died had at least one risk factor for heart disease.

A spokesman for Pfizer, the manufacturer, said there was no proof any of the deaths reported around the world were caused by Viagra. "The number of deaths isn't surprising if you think that 85 per cent of people with erectile dysfunction are over 45 and 3 million men have taken it."

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