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Irish taxpayers foot €4m medical card bill for monthly Viagra

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Viagra

The HSE paid out nearly €4m on Viagra prescriptions to people with medical cards in 2013.

It spent €3,978,987 on the drug which treats erectile dysfunction and heart conditions in those 12 months, and more than €12.2m since 2011.

The sum spent last year was a slight drop on the €4,321,869 spent in 2012, but more than the €3,910,161 handed out in 2011.

The money was provided to the HSE under the General Medical Services (GMS) scheme which includes medical cards, doctor-only cards, the Drug Payment Scheme (DPS) and similar schemes for patients aged 16 and over.

A spokeswoman for the HSE said the maximum reimbursable number of tablets for patients on the GMS scheme is four per month and that the ingredient cost of these is between €25 and €30.

"Viagra is also prescribed for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) and it is not possible to quantify how much is for treating erectile dysfunction or PAH," she said.

"The previous minister for health referred the reimbursement for oral medication for erectile dysfunction to an expert group.

"To ensure availability for genuine need, but to reduce the possibility of inappropriate usage, the expert group advised that the maximum reimbursable level on the GMS and Community Drugs Schemes be set at four tablets a month."

Pearse Phelan, the medical director of the Dublin Medical Centre, said that half of all men aged over 40 experience some level of erectile dysfunction.

"The problems vary, because everything is on a spectrum," he said.

He added that people's attitudes towards the problem have changed since he opened his service - which provides treatment to men with the disorder - more than 25 years ago.

"At that time there was a reluctance to come forward," said Mr Phelan.

"But people have a different attitude today - everything is much more open nowadays."

Meanwhile, taxpayers forked out €81,105 for medication which can be used to treat hair loss over the past three years, including €26,305 on alopecia last year.

hnews@herald.ie

Herald