VIAGRA TO BE MADE AVAILABLE OVER THE COUNTER IN BRITAIN

Viagra could be made available from pharmacies without a prescription for the first time, officials are to announce today.

Medical regulators will begin a three-week public consultation over plans to significantly expand access to the drug.

Viagra is one of the most successful drugs ever developed, taken by millions of men since it was launched by Pfizer in 1998.

But in Britain getting access to the drug, or the many others like it now available, has only ever been possible with a prescription from a doctor.

Erectile dysfunction affects 52 per cent of men aged between 40 and 70. But experts say 70 per cent of these are too embarrassed to seek advice over the problem.

Many go online, often buying illegal or counterfeit versions from overseas, putting them at risk of taking dangerous fakes.

Officials seized more than £11million of counterfeit and unlicensed erectile dysfunction treatments last year in Britain. More than 90 per cent of all illegal unlicensed medications seized in Britain last year were for erectile problems.

The Department of Health and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency last night confirmed a consultation proposing a relaxation of the rules, to last until April 18. An MHRA spokesman said: ‘We have analysed the scientific evidence on safety and sought advice from the Commission on Human Medicines.’ If the public response is positive, this will mean men will no longer need a GP’s prescription to take the drug. The new rules will limit sales to pharmacies, meaning men will be questioned about their health before they are sold the pills.

Many man source Viagra online leaving themselves open to the risk of illegal or dangerous counterfeit pills

Many man source Viagra online leaving themselves open to the risk of illegal or dangerous counterfeit pills

Sales are also to be limited to a box of eight 50mg pills of sildenafil, the generic name of Viagra. Such a pack currently costs the NHS £2.09, but the price may rise without a prescription.

The drug will also remain available on prescription, if a doctor decides it is needed.

But there are likely to be concerns men will be able to bulk buy packs by going from pharmacy to pharmacy, something that is not possible with a prescription.

A spokesman for the National Pharmacy Association said last night: ‘Pharmacists are capable of doing the necessary assessment for the treatment and also identifying when the situation requires a fuller investigation by a sexual health specialist.’

Pros and cons of a wonder drug

Developed as a blood pressure medication, Viagra’s ability to relax blood vessels means that it also improves blood flow to the groin.

More recent research has found it halves the risk of men with type two diabetes dying with heart problems.

A team of scientists in London is also exploring whether it may prevent the onset of vascular dementia, by improving blood flow to the brain.

But it does not work for everyone, even as an erectile drug, and comes with the risk of side-effects including headaches, nausea and loss of vision. It is particularly dangerous if a man takes more than one pill at a time, and in extreme cases can cause a heart attack.

DAILY MAIL

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