The Curse of Viagra; Drug Fury: Storm over Miracle Sex Pill That Ruined Lives

By Wrottesley, Catriona | Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), June 15, 1998 | Go to article overview

The Curse of Viagra; Drug Fury: Storm over Miracle Sex Pill That Ruined Lives


Wrottesley, Catriona, Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)


It was heralded as the wonder drug that would transform the sex lives of thousands of men.

Just three months ago Viagra, the drug developed by pharmaceutical giants Pfizer, was launched on to the US market.

But even before it becomes legally available in the UK, disturbing reports of social problems - side- effects and even deaths - have tarnished the hype.

Most recently, 89-year-old Larry Demorest was charged with attempted murder in Florida for allegedly clubbing a 34-year-old woman with a crowbar after she rejected his Viagra-fuelled sexual advances.

The widower, who denies the charge, said his doctor had prescribed the Viagra after a painful case of shingles had made sex difficult for months.

Most men experience difficulties in having sex at some time. But Viagra is designed for the approximately 140 million men worldwide who suffer long-term erection problems.

The drug works by enhancing the natural response to sexual stimulation by blocking the effect of an enzyme. It also has recognised side effects, the most notable being mild headaches, facial flushing and upset stomach.

Wall Street tycoon Alan Greenberg, 70, is giving more than pounds 600,000 to a New York hospital to buy Viagra for men who can't afford it. But the questions remain over its safety.

Airdrie GP Dr James Lough said: "As Viagra hasn't yet been released in this country, the only information available to GPs so far is either from medical journals or via Press coverage.

"There are so many different causes of impotency that it begs the question `should we be using a pill for a very complex issue?'

"Viagra has become the fastest-selling pill ever in the United States, and given the hype surrounding its imminent arrival over here, I'm sure it will do just as well in Britain.

"But I strongly believe many males, faced with impotency, will see Viagra as a quick fix to what may be a more complex problem.

"Also there is the claim that men in America have died as as result of taking the pill, so the question of safety arises."

Californian widow Gerri Howarth, 64, is planning to sue Pfizer after her husband Harry, 65, died an hour after taking Viagra and making love to her.

Although he had a history of heart trouble, she is convinced Viagra is to blame.

HER husband's death is one of 16 which have been blamed on Viagra. Seven of the deaths are reported to have occurred during or after intercourse, drawing attention to the risk for older men.

Those who died were aged 48 to 80, with most in their 60s and 70s.

The US Food and Drug Administration, which has publicised details of the deaths on its Internet site, says there is no evidence that Viagra is in itself dangerous.

But it says warnings are necessary of the potential fatal interaction with drugs containing nitrates taken by heart patents.

Of the deaths, two are linked with nitrate drugs. This is of concern to doctors who believe that, for many men, regaining sexual performance is more important than their general health and they may choose to conceal a heart problem in order to get the drug.

Dr Ira Sharlip, from San Francisco, an impotence adviser for the American Urological Association, revealed: "I've had a lot of patients say, `If I have to go, that's the way I want to go.'

In the US, more than a million men currently take the little blue pills.

Pfizer says 1.7 million prescriptions for Viagra have been issued in the US since it was licensed there in March this year.

The drug is not yet licensed in Britain, but word has spread fast.

During the first week of May alone, the Impotence Association recorded a 600 per cent increase in calls to the Helpline.

Association director Ann Craig had to ask trustees to put in extra phone lines to cope with demand.

For those with access to the Internet and a credit card, however, it is relatively easy to get your hands on Viagra. …

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