Viagra to be sold by GPs for pounds 7.50

Click to follow
The Independent Online
IMPOTENT MEN in need of Viagra will be able to get it from their local GP practice if they are prepared to pay, the Department of Health said yesterday.

Despite the temporary NHS ban on its use, announced on Monday, the department conceded that GPs would be able to prescribe it privately to patients who were not on their NHS lists.

Under NHS regulations GPs are prohibited from treating the same patient on the NHS and privately. But if GPs in the same practice cross-refer their NHS patients to each other they can then treat them as private patients. But "they would still have be persuaded that there were good clinical reasons for prescribing Viagra", a spokesman said.

The cost of the drug remained unclear yesterday. Pfizer, the manufacturer, said it had received written confirmation from the department on Monday that its proposed price of pounds 4.85 a pill had been accepted. The department said the letter had been signed by officials and had not been seen by ministers.

Frank Dobson, the Secretary of State for Health, speaking on BBC Radio yesterday, said he would be seeking a lower price.

Ken Moran, chief executive of Pfizer, said the pharmacy chain Moss had agreed to make Viagra available to patients with a prescription for pounds 6 a pill. GPs were expected to charge about pounds 7.50 for a private prescription. Mr Moran said the company would not reduce the price of pounds 4.85 a pill.

He accused the Government of penalising the company for a technological advance - producing a drug that was more effective than existing treatment for impotence, more acceptable to men and half the cost.

"Because of this the Government seems to have started to explore ways of rationing it. Pfizer believes Viagra should be available on the NHS for all men with a clinical diagnosis of erectile dysfunction."

Roger Kirby, secretary of the British Association of Urological Surgeons, and consultant urologist at St George's Hospital, London, said: "We are not allowed to prescribe a pounds 5 pill on the NHS, but we can prescribe a pounds 10 treatment or put a pounds 2,500 prosthesis in a patient. There is no logic to it."

Guidance on the use of the drug in the NHS is expected to be issued in a couple of months.

Mr Dobson said restricting the prescribing of Viagra to hospital specialists might create unacceptable queues. Another option would be to place it on the "grey list", under Schedule 11 of the NHS drugs regulations, which restricts prescribing to specific groups of patients - those with injuries, for example. "The main consideration is that we are keen to contain costs," a spokesman said.

Pfizer's position was backed by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, which launched three reports yesterday defending the cost of medicines to the NHS. It said drugs for Aids, kidney failure and hepatitis C, which had seemed expensive at first, had saved the NHS millions of pounds in hospitalisation and other costs.

Trevor Jones, director of the association, said: "It is very dangerous when the state dictates to physicians the nature of their prescribing."

Comments