Visiting a community pharmacist is a great way to get fast and free health advice from a highly-trained medical professional. You don’t need to make an appointment, and some pharmacy opening hours are longer than those of doctors’ surgeries – including, crucially, at the weekends.
But what about those ‘embarrassing’ problems: erectile dysfunction (ED), loss of libido or other sexual issues? Perhaps you couldn’t imagine having that conversation as a queue of people waiting to pick up their prescriptions builds up behind you (don’t worry – you won’t have to).
With 4.3 million men in the UK experiencing symptoms of erectile dysfunction* and with a medicine now available (VIAGRA Connect®) over the counter to treat it, pharmacists are trained and highly skilled healthcare professionals who are an ideal first port of call when getting help for ED.
*Men reporting occasional and frequent difficulty getting or maintaining an erection [ref. Kantar TNS Omnibus Survey Dec 2010 – in a survey of 1,033 men]
It’s natural to worry about what the pharmacist will think. We spoke to community pharmacist Vijaya Reddy about what she thinks when she helps people with ‘embarrassing’ problems, and believe us – it is very reassuring.
They want to give you privacy
“We don’t want to talk about your problem publicly any more than you do. We are very discreet,” says Vijaya.
More than 90% of UK pharmacies have a private consultation area or room. Ask one of the staff if you can have a private chat with the pharmacist and they’ll arrange one for you; you don’t even need to tell them what you’d like to discuss.
Pharmacists are trained to give advice on a number of issues, including ED. You won’t have any kind of physical examination or a barrage of personal questions about your sex life – they will enquire about your general physical health and any medication you might already be taking to ascertain what would be a suitable treatment for you.
They want to help with ‘embarrassing’ problems
“We spend a lot of our day advising people about runny noses, colds and tummy upsets. So when a patient comes in with a different condition, I find it really interesting as I can draw on all my consultation skills to deal with them in a sensitive and dignified way, and hopefully find a treatment that works for them. We appreciate that some people have been quite brave coming to see us,” says Vijaya.
They’ve heard it all before
Vijaya says: “Different people get embarrassed about different things; some people will talk freely about sexual health problems but may shy away from discussing body odour. Believe me, there’s nothing we haven’t come across before.
You may feel you’re struggling alone with ED but pharmacists see plenty of men seeking help and they can reassure you that you’re not alone. “You may find it easier to talk openly to a stranger. The pharmacist can really come into their own when helping with ‘embarrassing’ problems,” she reveals.
They don’t want you to suffer in silence
Pharmacists have a minimum of five years training to become the medical professionals they are, and being naturally empathetic comes with the job.
“We really feel for our patients and put ourselves in their shoes when we have a consultation,” says Vijaya. “We don’t want anyone to suffer in silence with any problem, however ‘embarrassing’ they feel it is and we do our utmost to put them at ease and help them.”
Some people suffer for years before they approach a pharmacist – one survey found that more than half of men (53%) ignored erectile dysfunction and failed to address it as a problem.
Now you can speak to a pharmacist directly, who will ask you a series of general health questions: about medical conditions you may have and medications you may be taking, before they assess whether VIAGRA Connect® may be right for you.
And if VIAGRA Connect® is suitable, they would recommend you follow up with your GP within six months for a health check.
They’re delighted when an over-the-counter treatment can help
“As health professionals, we appreciate how stretched the NHS can be. If we can [help with] a health problem over the counter we’ve freed up a GP appointment or saved an unnecessary trip to A&E for someone who has a greater need. And we’ll always refer you to your GP if we have any doubts about a diagnosis,” Vijaya reassures us.
There is also a way of doing this online
There are still some men who would prefer a non-face-to-face conversation. In these cases, VIAGRA Connect® is available from online pharmacies; a few questions about health and medical history will be need to be answered, before seeing if the medication is suitable.