NHS doctor slams Tesco for selling cheap Viagra

Posted Sep 22, 2010 by Mathew Wace Peck
A doctor working for the National Health Service in England has warned that selling cheap Viagra in supermarkets could put millions of men's health at risk.
Viagra   the little blue pill
Viagra, "the little blue pill"
Wikimedia Commons
Earlier this week, the UK-based supermarket chain announced that it would start selling cut-price Viagra in 300 of its stores throughout Britain from next Monday, to men between the ages of 40 and 65 years.
Tesco will be the first UK supermarket to offer the drug without prescription to men who suffer from ED – erectile dysfunction – which is estimated to affect around 2.3 million in the UK. Tesco will be selling a packet of eight Viagra pills for £52 ($81), as opposed to the current selling price of £55 ($86) for four pills at the high-street chemist, Boots.
However, Dr Stephanie Gallard, an NHS doctor, is concerned that Tesco shoppers will become addicted to the “little blue pill”. Gallard, who works as a medical director with the Liverpool NHS Trust told the Liverpool Echo: “I am very concerned that if men in Merseyside start buying Viagra from supermarkets, we could see increased numbers of cases of cardiovascular disease [CVD] and diabetes going undetected.
There is also potential for abuse by customers, who could purchase from multiple stores without clear safeguarding measures.”
Every little helps you get it up
The retail company – whose catchphrase is "Every little helps" – had already attempted to fend off criticism for their decision, stating that only a pharmacist would be able to make the sale, and that customers would be vetted before buying the drug. However, Gallard is worried that associated medical conditions could go undiagnosed. She told the paper:
Erectile dysfunction is often an early warning sign of potential CVD and diabetes problems, and by simply masking the problem with Viagra, they are just ignoring what could be a potentially fatal issue.
Tesco has said that it will do a diabetes test, but we do not know exactly what test it will be and under what conditions it will be taken.
Sometimes, if impotence is a new problem and there are other markers for serious conditions in the patient’s story, then the doctor may well undertake a more intensive health assessment than the simple tests done at the pharmacy.
Viagra can also interfere with other drugs being taken. “It is very dangerous for patients on certain medication to take Viagra. If their GP has already refused to prescribe them the drug on this basis, there is nothing to stop them going along to Tesco and getting it there instead,” she added.
Meanwhile, Shona Scott, Tesco Commercial Manager for Pharmacy Services said that men seeking to purchase the drug would, following completion of a questionnaire, receive a blood-pressure and cholestrol and a diabetes screen.
Tesco, and other national UK supermarket chains, have long been under pressure from campaigning organisations, such as the New Economics Foundation (NEF), worried about their increasing monopoly in the retail sector and of the impact they are having on small independent stores.
According to a report published by NEF in 2002, small general stores closed at around one per day and specialist stores, such as bakers, butchers and fishmongers, at a rate of fifty per week between 1997 and 2002. This led the Manchester School of Management to predict that by 2050 all independent food stores in the UK might have disappeared.