The UK’s move to launch its first OTC sildenafil medicine in April has been lauded as “a great public health opportunity”
Late last year, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency announced that 50mg sildenafil tablets would be reclassified as a pharmacy (P) medicine, meaning it could be sold over-the-counter.
Manufactured by Pfizer under the brand Viagra Connect, the medicine officially became available from all pharmacies and wholesalers across the UK on 16 April, reports Chemist and Druggist (C+D).
This was after a two-week period when it was available exclusively in Boots branches.
Just a few months after the product’s launch across UK pharmacies, market analysts say they have witnessed “firm growth” in Viagra sales.
Sales of the erectile dysfunction drug reportedly reached £4.3million (AUD$7.5million) in the 12 weeks after Viagra Connect became available.
The increase in unit sales “suggest that more men are becoming increasingly proactive about seeking treatment for the condition”, IRI told C+D.
Meanwhile erectile dysfunction conversations are “picking up”, say pharmacists.
Mike Hewitson, superintendent and managing director of Beaminster Pharmacy in Dorset, UK, told C+D he has had “a good number of conversations with customers” since the change.
Sadik Al-Hassan, pharmacist manager at a Well branch in Kingswood, UK, said he has sold “two or three” packs of Viagra Connect since the launch, and has had “about 10 conversations [with patients] specifically” about erectile dysfunction.
Manor Pharmacy Group said on Twitter: “We’ve also picked up a few psychological issues in some men as a result of Viagra enquiries and have referred them for talking therapy etc. A great public health opportunity.”
In Australia, the TGA’s Advisory Committee on Medicines Scheduling (ACMS) is in the process reviewing the possibility of creating an S3 category for sildenafil (Viagra).
There have been two previous requests for the drug to be down-scheduled in Australia, which were both rejected.
By comparison, sildenafil has been available over the counter in New Zealand since 2014.
The new Australian proposal claims the move will increase access to sildenafil for men suffering from erectile dysfunction and will help de-stigmatise the condition.
It also argues the move will direct men away from the unregulated supply of purported erectile dysfunction medications.
Many Australian men are accessing medicines from overseas websites that claim to help with erectile dysfunction.
Such counterfeit products may contain little or no active ingredient or contain undisclosed ingredients, warns the TGA.
The AMCS is expected to publish its interim decision on the sildenafil application in September.