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Councillor wants HSE funding for Viagra reviewed

Brian Meaney was reacting to figures from the HSE West which indicate a significant increase in spending on drugs to treat erectile dysfunction.

File photo
File photo
Image: TOBY TALBOT/AP/Press Association Images

A GREEN PARTY councillor has said that funding for the provision of Viagra tablets though the HSE needs to be looked at in light of the health service’s current budget problems.

Clare County Councillor Brian Meaney was responding to news that spending on erectile dysfunction drugs in the HSE West area, which stretches from Donegal to Limerick, increased by 13 per cent in 2010.

The figures showed that €1.42 million was spent on patients through the medical card scheme with Meaney saying that on a national level some €6.3 million was spent on drugs to treat erectile dysfunction according to the figures from 2010.

Meaney, who also sits on the HSE West Forum, told TheJournal.ie: “There is a medical need that requires immediate intervention where they need assistance in paying for it.

“Obviously there is a medical condition such as pulmonary arterial hypertension where drugs are prescribed to deal with it [erectile dysfunction] and that’s another situation where it has impact on real quality of life.

But I think what you need to look at is the cost generally. My experience with any product is that the costs reduces over time. There has been an over 100 per cent increase in the cost of Viagra since it was first put on the market.

Meaney said that he was dealing with “bread and butter” issues of local people coming to him with issues related to accessing diagnostic care services through the HSE and who are waiting “an inordinate amount of time”.

“This is the reality that services have to be cut and if we’re going cutting services let’s look at what is deemed necessary or unnecessary,” he said.

A tougher stance needs to be taken on this. There’s a whole variety of entitlements and not just on medical cards, across all sectors that needs to be reappraised and that’s the basis on which I am coming from here.

Meaney said he has been citing this issue since the last government’s decision to scrap the cervical cancer vaccination programme in 2008 which he said would have cost €5 million.

“Yet we’re spending more than that on the provision of erectile dysfunction drugs,” he said adding that he had no specific examples of where he felt the system of providing a maximum of four Viagra-like tablets to public patients per month was being abused.

But he said: “Let’s be clear, wherever you have an entitlement there will be an abuse.”

Meaney added that millions in savings could be realised by reviewing the provision of Viagra-type tablets through the public health system but added that he was not calling for a complete cut to funding.

Read: Howlin insists HSE will reach savings target despite €280m overspend

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Hugh O'Connell

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