A high street UK pharmacy store will be selling the anti-impotence drug viagra over the counter for the first time. The drug is being piloted for non prescription sale at three Boots Manchester stores starting this Wednesday, on Valentine’s Day.

Until now men had to see a doctor or consultant to get the drug under prescription.

From Wednesday, any man between 30 and 65 years of age who is experiencing erectile dysfunction will be able to walk into the store, have a short consultation and screening test with a pharmacist and if the pharmacist agrees, get a bottle of 4 viagra pills for 50 pounds.

The consultation will take about an hour during which the pharmacist takes a medical history, asks about symptoms and tests blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol. This is to check for heart problems and diabetes.

The man will be asked his name and address and the name and address of his GP. He will not have to provide ID.

If the man wants further viagra pills he will have to attend a follow up appointment with a private specialist who will perform a thorough medical exam.

This further appointment will cost 37.50 pounds. If this doctor says it is OK, then further viagra pills can be bought at 21.25 for four.

The man’s details will be sent to other stores to prevent the man going from store to store for a first appointment.

And details will also be sent to the man’s GP during the consultation.

Viagra is manufactured by Pfizer and is the brand name for sildenafil citrate. Sildenafil citrate is used to treat two symptoms: erectile dysfunction and pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). It is known under the brand name Revatio for treatment of PAH.

Other products that treat erectile dysfunction are tadalafil (Cialis, made by Eli Lilly), and verdenafil (Levitra, made by Bayer). There are also generic version of viagra.

Since it was made available for prescription use, viagra has been taken by over 25 million men worldwide, nearly 1 million of them in the UK.

Viagra helps men get an erection by relaxing the smooth muscle in the erectile tissue which allows more blood to flow into it. The effect lasts for about 4 hours.

As with all drugs, viagra has contra-indications and side effects.

Some people have headaches, dizziness or problems with vision, and people on nitroglycerin for angina, for example, should not take the drug. Others have had painful long lasting erections and have had to see their doctor.

Viagra should never be taken without consulting someone who is qualified to understand the potential harm the drug could cause given a person’s medical history, current medication and health condition.

Boots, which is now Alliance Boots after the merger with Alliance UniChem last year, said that only 10 per cent of men with erectile dysfunction seek treatment and that they hope this new method will help more of them to access it. They also think it could help toward screening for other problems like heart disease and diabetes.

If the pilot scheme is successful in the three Manchester stores, the company will extend the service to other high street stores.

Erectile dysfunction treatment is the third patient service that Boots is offering under a scheme it calls “patient group direction”. The other two treatments are for weight loss and baldness.

Click here for more information on Erectile Dysfunction (NHS Direct Health Encyclopaedia).

Written by: Catharine Paddock
Writer: Medical News Today