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New Zealand allows access to sildenafil through pharmacy

Ingrid Torjesen is a freelance journalist specialising in health and health policy. She is a regular contributor to The BMJ and the Health Service Journal and is editor of The Advisor, a magazine for people working in smoking cessation services. In the past she has acted as news editor for The BMJ; opinion, features and news editors for the HSJ and features editor for Nursing Times. Staff posts include associate editor and news editor of GP newspaper, news editor of Pulse, and reporter at Australian Doctor, based in Sydney. She has a degree in Biological Sciences specialising in Genetics.

Sildenafil can be supplied by a pharmacist who has successfully completed the approved training programme for the treatment of erectile dysfunction in men aged 35–70 years.

Source: Ian Hooton / Science Photo Library

Sildenafil, the active ingredient of Viagra (pictured), will be available from pharmacists without a doctor’s prescription in New Zealand

Men suffering erectile dysfunction in New Zealand are now able to buy sildenafil from specially trained pharmacists without a GP’s prescription.

Sildenafil has been reclassified in New Zealand from a prescription medicine to a “prescription medicine; except when supplied by a pharmacist who has successfully completed the approved training programme for the treatment of erectile dysfunction in males aged 35–70 years”. This classification was chosen by New Zealand’s Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority, Medsafe, because a restricted medicine category would prevent its investigation and enforcement team from being able to intercept sildenafil at the border.

The trained pharmacists will have to use a screening tool, and men who report heart problems and certain cardiovascular risk factors, including diabetes, will not be eligible for the drug. All men requesting sildenafil will also be encouraged to visit their GP for a heart health and diabetes check, and pharmacists will be required to inform the patient’s GP that sildenafil has been provided unless the patient objects.

The reclassification was pushed for by Douglas Pharmaceuticals, which launched a generic sildenafil in June 2011 after Viagra (Pfizer) came off patent. The company launched Viagra in New Zealand in the 1990s when Pfizer products were marketed there through Douglas Pharmaceuticals.

New Zealand is an early adopter of policy allowing an erectile dysfunction drug to be accessed directly from a pharmacy. Spain and Greece already allow this, and others are likely to follow.

Lilly, the manufacturer of another erectile dysfunction drug, Cialis (tadalafil), has agreed a deal with Sanofi to allow the French firm to buy exclusive rights to apply to sell Cialis as a non-prescription medicine in Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia after certain patents expire.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal , 1 November 2014, Vol 293, No 7834, online | DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.20066904

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