LIFESTYLE

Viagra To Be Sold Over The Counter At UK Pharmacies To Combat Counterfeit Online Sales

'This decision is good news for men’s health.'

29/11/2017 09:57 GMT

Men suffering from erectile dysfunction will soon be able to purchase Viagra over the counter at a pharmacy, rather than seeing their GP for a prescription.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has announced the decision to declassify Viagra Connect (containing sildenafil 50mg) as a prescription only medicine. 

The move is intended to make the drug more accessible to men who wish to use it in a safe way, to combat the number of counterfeit erectile dysfunction pills being sold illegally online. 

Over the past five years, investigators from MHRA have seized more than £50 million of unlicensed and counterfeit erectile dysfunction medicines.

Manufacturer of Viagra Connect, Pfizer, hopes to get the pills into pharmacies by spring 2018. 

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The MHRA announced the change after conducting a review of the safety of the Viagra Connect and concluding it is suitable to be old over the counter. 

The drug works by helping to relax the blood vessels in the penis, allowing blood to flow into the penis when sexually stimulated and helping men to get and maintain an erection. 

The decision to change regulations of the drug follows an investigation by Sky News conducted earlier this month, which found “black market” erectile dysfunction pills now account for “90% of all captured counterfeit drugs”.

The report stated that unlicensed samples of pills “can contain toxic chemicals such as lead and arsenic”, making them potentially dangerous to consume. 

Viagra Connect will be available over the counter to men over the age of 18 who will have to answer a few questions from a pharmacist.

The drug will not be sold to those with severe heart disorders; at high cardiovascular risk; liver failure; severe kidney failure; or taking certain interacting medicines.

Use of the drug in these groups of men must continue to be under the supervision of a doctor, due to potential health complications. 

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.”

Martin Tod, chief executive of the charity the Men’s Health Forum, welcomed the change to make Viagra more accessible. 

“If this means more men find it easier to get advice and help for erection problems, that can only be a good thing,” he said in a statement. 

“Erection problems can be very distressing. Sometimes men end up buying fake drugs online without talking to anyone to try and do something about it. They can also be a sign of other health issues like heart disease, diabetes, mental health problems or high blood pressure.

“Anything that means men are more likely to talk to a health professional about their erection problems and get the help they need is very welcome.”

Dr David Edwards, a GP with a special interest in sexual dysfunction and past President of the British Society of Sexual Medicine, added: “In my clinical experience a man’s ability to attain and maintain an erection is of paramount importance to him. When erection difficulties do occur, emotional and physical closeness between a man and his partner can diminish, leaving a man with a sense of isolation and lacking confidence in day to day life.

“A new initiative that enables men to go to a pharmacy to get help for their ED is welcome.”

He added he’s confident pharmacists will be able to adequately speak to men about erectile dysfunction and the drug.

“Almost all pharmacies already have a consulting room that is private making it an ‘okay place’ for men to attend,” he said.

“Anything that will deter men from buying ‘dodgy’, often counterfeit drugs without any contact with a healthcare professional, is to be applauded.”