Abuse of Impotence Drug Seen Causing Permanent Impotence

Adapted from original article by JEFF NESMITH
(New York Times Syndicate, April 6, 1998 - Cox News Service)

WASHINGTON -- Even before Viagra arrives in drug stores, telephones are ringing off the hook at the offices of doctors who are likely to prescribe it.

And some of those doctors already have started to worry about a Viagra black market in which "weekend warriors," who don't need the pill to achieve a normal erection, decide to use it for not-so-normal adventures.

Many doctors expect the drug will be abused.

There are men who've got normal function but are going to try to use this drug to get harder erections of longer duration," said Dr. John Mulhall, a urologist at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago. "These people may end up injuring themselves and becoming permanently impotent."

Priapism, the medical term for an erection that won't subside, has become a more common occurrence in recent years as some men give themselves injections to effect longer-lasting sex and end up overdoing it.

"We get men now who come into the emergency room with erections they've had for 12 or 14 hours and can't get rid of," said Dr. Mulhall, one of the network of clinical investigators who tested Viagra for Pfizer Inc., the drug company that is manufacturing Viagra.

Injuries resulting from priapism can lead to a kind of impotence that the drug won't cure, Mulhall said.

He said Pfizer officials have told him they too are concerned about a possible Viagra black market.

Although Pfizer-sponsored tests on 4,000 American men failed to reveal serious side effects of the drug, Mulhall noted that all the tests were on men who suffered from some degree of impotence.

"There has been no study of the effect of this drug on men with normal penile function," Mulhall said, "and we don't know if it will cause a three- or four-hour erection in them."

But Mulhall and others are concerned that men who are using the pills without a prescription will be inclined to take it repeatedly for quicker comebacks, eventually building up the concentration of the drug in their systems with unpredictable effects.

"This office has been inundated with telephone calls from people who only want to get a prescription," he said. "I really think there is a potential for it to become a black market drug for weekend warriors."

But he said he expects many men will ask for the drug without being willing to talk in detail about their problems. Often, impotence is the result of a more serious problem, including cancer, which should be investigated, he said.

(The Cox web site is at http://www.coxnews.com)


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