SEXACO - Viagra Could Soon Be on Sale at a Garage near You; Analysis: Viagra Looks Set to Be Available over the counter.But on the Eve of National Impotence Day, We Ask Could Some Men Be Putting Their Health at Risk?

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Byline: by Sasha Mansworth

POPPING into your local petrol station could spice up your sex life.

Not only could you fill up your petrol tank, but you could also pick up a packet of Viagra while paying at the cash till.

The controversial treatment for male erectile dysfunction is likely to be available in the high street by the end of the year.

And you can get hold of it for as little as pounds 5 each, if proposals by the Medical Controls Agency to relax the control on prescription drugs go ahead.

And while flicking through your favourite health and lifestyle magazine, you're more than likely to see an ad for Viagra popping up among the problem page and fashion spread, as reclassification of any drug under the system would also relax rules about advertising products.

But this could lead to the drug being exploited as a sexual aid - its availability on the internet has already led to some users taking Viagra to enhance their sexual performance.

Other drugs could also be affected by the move - women taking a contraceptive pill could soon sidestep their GPs and buy it over the counter in the same manner as the morning-after pill.

Rules governing beta-blockers used to treat anxiety, flu asthma and migraine treatments, and drugs to treat obesity are also set to be relaxed.

Dr Mike Bloomfield, a Cardiff specialist in sexual health, treats about 400 men a year.

He believes that patients need a medical assessment before they take Viagra, as impotence can be the first sign of serious medical problems.

"Of my patients, 100 per cent have impotence due to medical reasons and only a quarter can have treatment on the NHS, which is appalling, " he said.

"It costs between pounds 23 and pounds 36 for four Viagra tablets, and three-quarters of my patients have to buy privately due to regulations which recognise only men with 12 medical conditions.

"I would rather see the treatment on the NHS, as impotence is a medical problem and the Department of Health is simply making Viagra available over the counter so they don't have to be responsible for providing it on the NHS."

Following the announcement of the consultation to expand the number of medicines available over the counter, Drug Misuse lobby groups have pointed out that abuse of clinically available medicines is an increasing problem.

"Misuse of medicines prescribed by the doctor is already a growing problem in Wales, " said Iestyn Davies, director of the Welsh Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs.

"Unfortunately, anything that makes these medicines more easily available will contribute to the problem.

"We are also concerned that drugs such as Viagra which are quite hard to come by but have a reputation as a sex aid for normally healthy people will lead to health problems for people who potentially suffer from a heart condition or high blood pressure. …