Plans to make Viagra available over the counter unveiled

Viagra use is high in Fylde

Viagra use is high in Fylde

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Viagra could be made available from pharmacies under plans to scrap the need for a prescription.

Men would be able to buy the drug, which is used to treat erectile dysfunction in those aged 18 and over, after a chat with a pharmacist.

The proposal is set out in a consultation that runs until April 17 from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Packs of eight tablets of Viagra (also called sildenafil) would be made available, with men told to take no more than one tablet per day.

Viagra, which works by relaxing blood vessels, thereby allowing blood to flow to the penis, works for about eight hours and is designed to be used "on demand".

Erectile dysfunction can be caused by a range of conditions, including psychological problems, but can also be a sign of underlying heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure.

An MHRA spokesman said: "We always aim to widen choice and access for medicines when it is safe to do so.

"A final decision on whether to make sildenafil 50mg tablets available as a pharmacy medicine has yet to be made.

"We have analysed the scientific evidence on safety and sought advice from the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM).

"The CHM advised that sildenafil 50mg tablets meets the criteria for pharmacy availability in certain circumstances for adult men with erectile dysfunction with a maximum dose of one tablet each day, and a maximum pack size of eight tablets, subject to public consultation.

"Involving the public and healthcare professionals is part of our standard regulatory process."

John Smith, chief executive of the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB), the trade association representing manufacturers, said: "Reclassifying prescription-only medicines where a good safety profile and suitability for self-care has been established is very positive.

"Over-the-counter availability offers people faster and easier access to effective medicines, reduces pressure and costs on GPs and the NHS, and encourages more people to self-care.

"Self-care is an important part of a modern healthcare system and is vital for the long-term sustainability of the NHS.

"Erectile dysfunction is a condition that is easily self-diagnosed and suitable for self-treatment, with the support of a pharmacist.

"We believe the highly-skilled pharmacists working in pharmacies across the UK are ideally placed to support men with erectile dysfunction and identify whether sildenafil is a suitable treatment for their condition.

"Pharmacists will be able to identify any 'red flags' or concerns which would need further investigation by a GP or specialist doctor."

Dr Berkeley Phillips, UK medical director for Pfizer, which makes the drug, said: "The availability of pharmacist-supplied, non-prescription sildenafil could offer men a new and additional way to access a legitimate, long-established and well-studied treatment for erectile dysfunction.

"This could have further benefits as the condition may be an early warning sign of a more serious underlying condition, such as heart disease, which may otherwise go undetected."