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ED Patients Get Easier Access to Viagra

Chinese men suffering from erectile dysfunction (ED) now have easier access to Viagra.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) and the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) have given the green light for pharmacies in major cities to sell Viagra, a medication that has only been available through strictly controlled prescriptions issued by specialists since 2000.

Physicians in a wider range of specialties are also now authorized to prescribe Viagra.

Pfizer China, the distributor of the drug, made the announcement on Monday in Beijing.

According to a joint statement by the MOH and SFDA, urologists, andrologists, psychiatrists, gerontologists, endocrinologists and cardiologists at hospitals above county level or at specialized hospitals for cardiovascular and psychiatric illnesses may now issue the prescriptions.

Previously, only chief physicians in a few of departments, including urology and cardiovascular disease, were authorized.

The MOH and SFDA made the decision based on more than six years of clinical research and use of Viagra worldwide, as well as more than four years of clinical use in China.

More than 2,000 patients in 36 major hospitals across the country participated in the clinical trials in the past four years, said Guo Yinglu, a senior professor of urology at the Peking University No. 1 Hospital.

Medical workers say the move is a breakthrough in the treatment of ED in China. Easier access to the treatment will guarantee the happiness of more families, said Guo.

Just a few years ago, ED was a taboo topic here. The situation has been improving in the four years since Viagras entry into the Chinese market in 2000, said Guo, but more needs to be done to better tackle the issue.

A recent survey of 1,000 ED patients in more than 10 cities by the Beijing Peoples Hospital indicated that Chinese patients wait an average of 22 months after developing the disorder to see a physician, much longer than the average of six months in Western nations.

According to the survey, around 90 percent of ED sufferers in China do not go to hospitals for three major reasons: embarrassment and prudery; concerns about privacy; and distrust of the efficacy of currently available treatments.

Relaxing controls over ED drugs will help arouse public awareness about the disorder as well as benefiting patients by lowering costs and increasing convenience, according to Zhu Jichuan, chairman of the Urology Association of the China Medical Association.

The US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicine Evaluation Agency approved Viagra in 1998. Since then, it has been licensed and marketed in 123 countries.

(China Daily September 28, 2004)

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