Export of Viagra alternative banned as shortage hits UK men

Export of Viagra alternative banned as shortage hits UK men so that ‘lifesaver’ alprostadil can be used by Britons recovering from prostate cancer

  • Wholesalers have been banned from exporting alprostadil – a Viagra alternative
  • Two weeks ago, worsening shortages forced the Government to impose a blanket ban on wholesalers shipping certain types of medication abroad
  • Drugs in short supply will have to be given to NHS, rather than shipped abroad

The export of an erectile dysfunction medication has been banned to preserve supplies for men amid medicine shortages in the UK.

Yesterday alprostadil – an alternative to Viagra – was added to a list of 27 medications which drug wholesalers have been forbidden from exporting.

The drug, known by the brand name Caverject, is delivered by injection to treat erectile dysfunction.

Doctors say it has been a ‘nightmare’ to get hold of, but experts claim Caverject is a ‘lifesaver’ for many men – particularly those recovering from prostate cancer.

Drugs in short supply will have to be given to NHS patients, rather than shipped abroad for higher profit (file image)

Two weeks ago, worsening shortages forced the Government to take the unprecedented step of imposing a blanket ban on wholesalers shipping certain types of medication abroad. This included all HRT, EpiPens and some blood-thinning pills.

It means drugs in short supply will have to be given to NHS patients, rather than shipped abroad for higher profit.

Any company which breaches the export ban faces a punishment, handed out by the medicines watchdog.

Three other drugs were yesterday added to the export ban including ranitidine, used to treat acid reflux, and the contraceptive medication norethisterone.

Doctors say it has been a ‘nightmare’ to get hold of, but experts claim Caverject is a ‘lifesaver’ for many men – particularly those recovering from prostate cancer

Tet Yap, a consultant urologist with London Urology Associates, told The Times: ‘Supplies of this drug have been intermittent for many years… It is fantastic that the Government has taken some extreme action… For the men who suffer from erectile dysfunction the drug is a real lifesaver.’

He added: ‘It’s used particularly by men who have had surgery for prostate cancer or people who suffer from diabetes. It’s the next step if Viagra doesn’t work. If Caverject doesn’t work, then men need a prosthetic penis and that is an extreme measure that most men aren’t willing to undertake in order to save their sex lives.’

Karen Stalbow, head of policy at Prostate Cancer UK, said: ‘It is important that action is taken to ensure that these treatments are available for the men that need them.’

A spokesman for Pfizer, which manufactures both Viagra and Caverject, said: ‘We are aware Caverject has been included on the Government’s list of medicines to protect supplies for patients in the UK.

‘We will continue to work with the Department of Health… to support the effective supply of all Pfizer medicines for patients in the UK. We fully recognise the importance of alprostadil to patients in the UK who rely on it and we are working as quickly as possible to rectify the supply issues.’

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