Viagra pills can now be sold over the counter after drug reclassification

Health officials hope move will encourage men to stop buying counterfeit medication from illegal websites

Tom Embury-Dennis
Tuesday 28 November 2017 16:39
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Viagra will be able to be sold over the counter
Viagra will be able to be sold over the counter

Men with erectile dysfunction are now going to be able to buy Viagra over the counter after health officials reclassified the drug.

The change will allow pharmacists to hand over the medication to men over the age of 18 if they determine it is an appropriate treatment, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has announced.

Previously patients had to get a prescription from their GP.

The decision was made following an assessment of the safety of the medication, advice from the Commission on Human Medicines, and a public consultation earlier this year.

It said in a statement the move to make Viagra more widely available will help prevent men who avoided seeing doctors from buying medication off illegal websites.

Erectile dysfunction drugs make for popular products for criminals selling unlicensed and counterfeit versions, it said.

MHRA investigators have seized more than £50m worth over the past five years.

Owen Smith asked if he has ever used viagra?

Mick Foy, MHRA’s group manager in vigilance and risk management of medicines, said: “This decision is good news for men’s health. The move to make Viagra Connect more widely accessible will encourage men to seek help within the healthcare system and increase awareness of erectile dysfunction.

“Erectile dysfunction can be a debilitating condition, so it’s important men feel they have fast access to quality and legitimate care, and do not feel they need to turn to counterfeit online supplies which could have potentially serious side effects.”

Pharmacists will be able to determine whether treatment is appropriate for the patient and can give advice on erectile dysfunction, usage of the medicine, potential side effects and assess if further consultation with a general practitioner is required.

But some men, including those with severe heart problems, those at high risk of heart problems, liver failure, kidney failure or those taking certain “interacting medicines”, will still need to be prescribed the drug under the supervision of a doctor.

It is the first time Viagra has been made available over the counter, but GP leaders cautioned that it could mean serious causes of some erectile dysfunction might go undiagnosed.

Dr Andrew Green, GP prescribing lead for the British Medical Association, told The Independent: "There is no doubt that sildenafil is a safe and effective drug, but unfortunately the development of erectile dysfunction can be a warning sign of the presence of significant other disease.

"Diabetes, alcohol misuse and prostate cancer may all present with difficulties sustaining an erection, and ED in itself is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. I would therefore expect patients who see GPs with this problem to have investigations to exclude these conditions.

"I do have some concerns that these regulatory changes may mean that an opportunity to diagnose patients with significant disease, or to address the lifestyle factors that may be contributing to their problems, may be missed."

Manufacturer Pfizer said it is currently working on plans for the launch of Viagra Connect in the UK in the spring of 2018.

Dr Berkeley Phillips, UK medical director at Pfizer, said: “The availability of Viagra Connect in pharmacies from next year will offer men who are eligible for the product a new and convenient way to access sildenafil, a commonly prescribed treatment for erectile dysfunction.

“We understand some men may avoid seeking support and treatment for this condition, so we believe giving them the option to talk to a pharmacist and buy Viagra Connect could be a real step forward in encouraging more men into the healthcare system.

“As erectile dysfunction may be a sign of an underlying condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease, there could also be a wider benefit to public health in the long term.

“We hope that this forthcoming new opportunity to purchase a genuine treatment via pharmacy will also reduce the likelihood of men turning to potentially ineffective and dangerous counterfeits from illicit sources.”

Additional reporting by PA

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