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Viagra: What men really need to know

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Last week Britain became the first country in the world to allow the libido-boosting drug to be bought over the counter from pharmacies at £5 a pill, rather than on prescription.Drug firm Pfizer says it hopes that making sildenafil, sold under the brand name Viagra Connect, more widely available will mean that men who had not previously sought help for impotence would be more likely to do so.It’s estimated that about 4.3 million men in the UK suffer from impotence but very few seek treatment because they are embarrassed about the condition.In truth, the decision was prompted in part by the huge rise of an online black market for unregulated erectile dysfunction drugs. In 2016 alone £17million worth of counterfeit Viagra was seized in the UK.Nevertheless the move has been welcomed by health chiefs who believe that having it available in pharmacies will not only counteract the impact of potentially dangerous counterfeit drugs but also help lessen the stigma of erectile dysfunction (ED).However some medics are urging caution, pointing out that men who have difficulty getting or maintaining a proper erection often have underlying health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and stress.Here we look at what you need to consider before buying the little blue pills.What is it and who can buy it?Viagra Connect is the first medicine for the symptoms of erectile dysfunction to be made available over the counter in UK pharmacies.It contains 50mg of the active ingredient sildenafil, which belongs to a group of medicines called phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE 5) inhibitors.It should only be prescribed to men who have impotence and who are medically fit enough to have .No one under the age of 18 should be able to buy it.It is available in Boots exclusively (both in store and online) until April 10 and after that it will be available in 14,000 pharmacies nationwide and online.GETTYDoes it work for everyone?No, it is thought to be effective in about two-thirds of cases.The drug works by helping to relax the blood vessels, allowing blood to flow into the penis when ually stimulated. This helps to maintain firmer erections.It is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and takes between 30 and 60 minutes to work and will remain active in the body for up to four hours.NCHow much does it cost? or eight for £34.99.At present GPs can still prescribe it at the cost of a NHS prescription which is £8.80.But in the current cost-cutting climate where some over-the-counter medicines such as hay fever and thrush treatments are no longer funded in some regions, drugs for erectile problems may go the same way.Also Pfizer’s exclusive 15-year patent on Viagra ran out in 2013, enabling cheaper, generic drugs to be available in the UK. Can I buy Viagra off the shelf?No. You need to ask a pharmacist for it. You can ask to have this conversation in a private room.While the consultation won’t require a physical examination, you will have to answer a series of questions ab
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