Blog

Figures from NHS Digital show the use for Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs has almost tripled over the last decade as they become more affordable and the stigma for the condition fades. In 2016, 2, 958, 199 prescriptions were issued for sildenafil as compared to 1, 042, 431 prescriptions in 2006. Significant increases in between years were also identified from the data with an increase of 43% between 2014 and 2015, and a smaller jump between 2015 and 2016 of 16%.

Having reviewed these figures, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) explained this sharp rise as a result of patients being more educated, more affordability and less stigma being attached to erectile dysfunction. There is also a shift in male attitudes with men now “feeling comfortable enough to visit their doctor” about the condition.

However, the RCGP has warned of the dangers of sourcing the drug online, given the vast numbers of counterfeit drugs available over the internet. This is because many websites now sell generic products at a lower cost and without prescription, however, the authorities warn that a large number of these drugs could be counterfeit.

The latest trend noted by doctors is younger men purchasing Viagra over the internet, to improve sexual performance or to counteract the effects of other recreational drugs which have affected their sexual performance.

Chair of the RCGP, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard warned of the dangers of buying sildenafil citrate, the generic name for Viagra, off-prescription and over the internet.

“Buying medication online might seem convenient, and it might be attractive to patients who are embarrassed to discuss medical problems with their doctor in person, but it isn’t without risk. Firstly, there is no way for someone to know what they are buying is what they think it is and this in itself can have profound consequences.”

“There are a number of medical reasons why the drug would not be prescribed – for example if a patient has a heart or a liver problem, or if they have low blood pressure”.

Latest figures released by the MHRA show a drop in the number of unlicensed and counterfeit Viagra seized in recent years; £20.9m in 2015-2016, and £17m in 2016. However, this is still significantly higher than the figure from 2014-2015 of almost £7m.

Danny Lee-Frost, the Head of Enforcement at the MHRA said “We see a lot of unlicensed generic erectile dysfunction medication coming out of India, it’s a big problem….so this is pharmaceutical companies in India making their own versions of these medications. They are not licensed for supply in the UK, so they cannot be supplied by a UK doctor and end up on websites dotted around Britain”.

He further elaborated “The other way it comes is from someone based in the UK: the term for that is a drop shipper. They get big parcels from suppliers from the far East or China and that becomes their stock that they then distribute out in the post….we will seize big parcels heading on their way to drop shippers and try to figure out where the shipper is to arrest them”.

One NHS GP, Dr Seth Rankin who is also chief executive of the London Doctors Clinic, a private chain of GP surgeries, said he has also heard of young men purchasing Viagra online.

“We see a number of guys who take [Viagra] recreationally and we might get a sideways question like ‘my mates are using it – is there any harm?’ You don’t get people coming in and asking for it directly, most get information from friends and order it online”.

He added “It’s the same thing as steroid use in gyms, they are usually a bit worried about taking it and want to check it’s OK”.

According to Dr Rankin, the reasons for taking the drug is many young men watched a lot of pornography and felt pressure to perform. Another reason was to counteract the effects of alcohol and drugs which can cause erectile dysfunction.