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115,000 now on Viagra costing €3.5m a year

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HEALTH Viagra filer...Library file photo dated 14/7/98 of Viagra the anti-impotence drug which was cleared for sale throughout the European Union today (Tuesday). The Brussels Commission insisted it must only be available on prescription. See PA Story HEALTH Viagra. Photo by John Stillwell.

HEALTH Viagra filer...Library file photo dated 14/7/98 of Viagra the anti-impotence drug which was cleared for sale throughout the European Union today (Tuesday). The Brussels Commission insisted it must only be available on prescription. See PA Story HEALTH Viagra. Photo by John Stillwell.

HEALTH Viagra filer...Library file photo dated 14/7/98 of Viagra the anti-impotence drug which was cleared for sale throughout the European Union today (Tuesday). The Brussels Commission insisted it must only be available on prescription. See PA Story HEALTH Viagra. Photo by John Stillwell.

PRESCRIPTIONS for Viagra are running at a record 115,000 a year for the country's medical card holders.

The cost of prescribing the drug – used to treat erectile dysfunction – has also broken a record at more than €3.5m a year, excluding the dispensing fees paid to pharmacists.

A serious condition for middle-aged and elderly men, there has been an increase in the cost of treating erectile dysfunction through Viagra and other drugs for medical card holders.

Viagra has cost the taxpayer €28m under the general medical services scheme since it was introduced here in 1999.

 

Increase

Minister of State Alex White has revealed that the number of prescriptions has risen from 29,000 in 2000 to 61,000 in 2005 and 104,000 by 2010.

The figure for 2011 was 115,000 prescriptions and the number continues to rise – some 29pc of prescriptions were for men aged between 55 to 64.

Fine Gael TD Billy Timmins, who asked for the details, said he would be contacting Health Minister James Reilly to ask why the amount of Viagra being dispensed to medical card patients was on the increase.

"I am at a loss to understand this trend", he added.

The HSE says Viagra, which is manufactured in Cork by the Pfizer company, is also prescribed for pulmonary arterial hypertension. It was not able to say, however, how many prescriptions were for this condition and how many were for erectile dysfunction.

Last year the HSE restricted the number of tablets available to medical card patients each month in a bid to ensure the system was not being abused.

"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," a HSE spokeswoman said.

The ingredient cost for four tablets is in the region of €25 to €30. Generic equivalents can only be made available when a product is out of patent.

 

Cosmetic

Meanwhile, new figures show that the HSE spent €3.2m every year on cosmetic surgery and weight-loss procedures.

While most people would consider such work to be conducted at private clinics, a number of procedures have been carried out by the HSE, but only on the clinical diagnosis of a medical consultant.

New figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that in 2011 there were 758 cosmetic surgery procedures carried by the HSE and 59 weight loss procedures.

The most common cosmetic surgery was breast reduction – 204 were performed in 2011 at a cost of €1.3m.

csheehy@herald.ie


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