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20 years since it hit the shelves, the HSE spends €500,000 on Viagra for Irish men

It was the first pill aimed at helping men get erections.
Mar 27th 2018, 6:16 AM 18,286 52

DISCOVERED BY CHANCE and made in Cork, Viagra turns 20 today – and it costs Irish health services €500,000 to prescribe it to men.

The erectile dysfunction pill, made at Pfizer’s plant in Ringaskiddy, hit shelves 20 years ago this week after being discovered by chance by teams at the pharma giant who were experimenting with an angina drug called Sildenafil.

The medication proved powerless in calming thoracic pain brought on by such a condition, but the drug had an unexpected side-effect on men: it caused an erection.

It was the first pill aimed at helping men get erections.

The Viagra boom also coincided with the rise of the internet, and the explosion of online pornography.

Ads for Viagra were designed to reframe what had been known as “male impotence” as “erectile dysfunction” or ED, a medical condition that could finally be fixed.

Republican senator, military veteran and one-time presidential candidate Bob Dole became the first television spokesman for Viagra, admitting his own fears about erectile dysfunction to the masses.

Ireland

About 65 million prescriptions have been filled worldwide for the blockbuster drug, with many coming here in Ireland.

Overall in 2016, the HSE’s Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) funded €476,836 worth of generic versions of the drug. This is on top of €4.5 million on brand name drugs to those on medical cards. Viagra came off patent in 2014, meaning the HSE could prescribe generic versions of it to patients.

The largest uptake of the drugs – Alprostadil, Sildenafil, Tadalafil and Vardenafil – came in the Cork South Lee Local Health Organisation area, where €31,000 was spent. North Dublin saw €30,000 spent, while €28,000 was spent in Meath. In Roscommon, €5.91 was spent.

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Revolution

The subject of many jokes, the drug has also been credited with revolutionising sexual expression.

Before Viagra, men wanted to talk about their erectile problems, and did, but the conversations were awkward and difficult, recalled Elizabeth Kavaler, a urology specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

“Now, sexuality in general is very out there,” she added.

“Sex has become an expected part of our lives as we age. And I am sure Viagra has been a big part of that.”

With AFP reporting

Read: South Korean men may have been given Viagra as political bribes

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