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Erectile Dysfunction Pills

Chinese ED (erectile dysfunction) patients will soon have easier access to the "magic pills" that can cure the condition. Small and medium-sized hospitals can now dispense the erectile dysfunction pills after the State drug administration relaxed its strict control over the drugs. Reliable sources told the Shanghai Star during the 5th National Urology Conference held in the city last weekend that a new policy has been drafted to cover the prescription of ED drugs.

"Three departments, the Medical Policy Department under the Ministry of Health as well as other two drug approval and administrative departments in the State Drug and Food Administration, are drafting new rules about how to prescribe ED drugs," said Zhu Jichuan, chairman of the Urology Association of the China Medical Association. "The new policy is more humane and convenient for ED patients."

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Zhu revealed that ED drugs may also be prescribed by senior doctors in "grass-roots" hospitals such as community hospitals. The first ED drug, sindenafil (Viagra) manufactured by Pfizer, was approved to be prescribed in city-level hospitals only in July 1999 and its prescription was strictly limited to the chief or attending doctors of the urology departments in big hospitals.

Later drug policies empowered doctors in other departments including cardiovascular and internal secretion departments as well as specialist hospitals to prescribe the drug. But patients still found it difficult to get ED drugs. "Since ED may be the first symptom of various diseases, the initial medical examination should be carefully conducted. But as the drugs have been proved safe for patients, they should be able to have easier access to the drugs. It's too troublesome for regular patients to consult doctors several times a month," said professor Zhang Yuanfang of Shanghai Huashan Hospital.

Zhang stressed that doctors must inform patients of the side-effects and observe the patient's condition carefully. Zhang's advice was echoed by Dr Jiann Bang-Ping from the Urology Department of Kaohsiung Veterans General Hospital in China's Taiwan Province: "The communication between doctors and patients is of vital importance," he said. "After being re-educated about proper use of the drug, 59 per cent of those who failed the first time may achieve good results." After Viagra, another two ED drugs - vardenafil (Levitra) and tadalafil (Cialis) - have entered the market. Cialis has finished the clinical trials in China and is expected to be approved for the Chinese market next year. Experts said that such drugs have changed the traditional concept of sex among Chinese.

"In our hospital, the biggest age group of Viagra users is men around 40 whose wives demanded that they consult doctors," Zhang said.

The past four years have seen Viagra sales increasing by 150 per cent. ED patients are more willing to obtain their Viagra from drugstores because of their convenience, lower cost, shyness and other reasons.

"Patients are still too shy to tell doctors about their dysfunction. They would rather try other alternative treatments such as bull's sex organ or herbal medicines, but such treatments lack any scientific basis," said Professor Mei Ye from the No.1 Hospital attached to Zhongshan University.

Experts believe that a loosening of controls over ED drugs will not only benefit patients by lowering costs and increasing convenience but also will be an effective way to combat fake drugs or cheap viagra.

Drew Voight

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