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Selling Viagra widely in pharmacies ‘will deny men proper care’, warns top GP

Plans to allow pharmacists to start selling generic Viagra without a prescription could end up denying men proper assessment and treatment for erectile dysfunction, the GPC has warned.

The GPC’s prescribing policy lead Dr Andrew Green warned the move not only poses safety concerns but could also prove to be ‘a Trojan horse’ for pushing through restrictions on its availabilityon the NHS.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency announced last week it is holding a consultation on whether to make sildenafil - the generic version of Viagra – available from pharmacies.

It comes after drugs giant Pfizer put in an application to get the drug changed from a prescription-only to pharmacy medicine, to try to make the drug more widely available.

Pfizer’s UK medical director Dr Berkeley Philips said: ‘The availability of the pharmacist-supplied, non-prescription sildenafil could offer men an additional way to access a legitimate, long-established and well-studied treatment for erectile dysfunction.’

The company stated in the consultation document that any risks would be ‘minimised’, as pharmacists would be trained up to do proper assessments, and supplied a checklist to identify anyone who should be referred to their GP.

But Dr Green said: ‘We need to take great care not to sacrifice safety on the altar of convenience. The development of erectile dysfunction can not only be an indicator of underlying disease but also is a significant risk-factor for cardiovascular problems. Nobody should supply such treatments without addressing such factors.’

He added: ‘With CCGs increasingly using alternative routes of provision of drugs as a reason to limit NHS availability we need to be aware that this might be a Trojan horse resulting in the denial of NHS treatment to men who, we should remember, have only just emerged from a prolonged period of discrimination.’

The NHS lifted controversial restrictions on Viagra just three years ago, after the drug’s patent expired and price of the generic version plummeted. Prior to that decision, only men with a diagnosed underlying condition such as diabetes or prostate cancer could access it on the NHS.

However, CCGs have come under criticism for trying to limit on how many tablets GPs can prescribe patients.

 

Readers' comments (3)

  • I appreciate and understand the concerns here but is this an issue that we should go to battle over?

    I wonder if there is a different way of looking at this specific issue. In years of evaluating and managing ED in general practice, it is very unusual to come across a game changing diagnosis or reversible factors although of course these do occur. Many patients with the condition will be well known to their practices through long term conditions management.

    Treatment is generally safe in carefully selected patients and I feel current arrangements are a barrier to getting treatment for what is for many a distressing and stigmatising condition.

    Why not remove barriers and allow a highly skilled pharmacists to assess and supply treatment. This would be in keeping with enabling self care and self management and more patient responsibility. Apart from anything else, the current workload pressures mean prioritisation and we should be looking for areas where pharmacist can help us out

    What do others think?

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  • I agree mayur.

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  • Brightondrjohn

    This is a logical progression so long as the pharmacists go through a Pharmacy Patient Group Directions training and the ED treatment is included in the Clinical E-Record.
    See: www.pharmacypgd.co.uk/about-pgds/available-pgds/erectile-dysfunction-pgd

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