The Viagra revolution: Number of prescriptions for erectile dysfunction has DOUBLED in a decade, new study reveals

  • The NHS spends around £22.4million a year on erectile dysfunction medication
  • The amount of drugs given out has increased by 110% between 2009 and 2019
  • Study from Birmingham and Warwick universities shows biggest increase is in the north where men have grown more comfortable discussing the difficulties
  • But research suggests some men still suffer in silence and doctors stressed the importance of seeking treatment as could be sign of underlying health problem 

Prescriptions for pills to help men suffering problems in the bedroom have more than doubled in a decade, a study reveals today.

Family doctors in England gave out 4.5million packets of drugs for erectile dysfunction in 2019, up 110 per cent from the 2.1million issued in 2009.

The NHS now spends around £22.4million a year on tadalafil and on sildenafil, which is made by Pfizer and is better known by its brand name Viagra.

The research also showed that demand has grown most in the North as men generally have become more comfortable talking about their difficulties in bed.

But academics from Birmingham and Warwick Universities warned that many still ‘suffer in silence’ as they remain ‘too embarrassed’ to discuss it with their doctor.

Up to three in four men globally have some form of erectile dysfunction, which can cause anxiety, loss of confidence and relationship difficulties.

A study has revealed that prescriptions for pills to treat erectile dysfunction have increased by 110 per cent between 2009 and 2019 with the NHS spending around £22.4million a year

It can be a sign of an underlying physical or mental health issue, such as depression, diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

But seeking help for such intimate problems may allow GPs to deal with men’s other health issues, said the academics who examined NHS prescribing data.

Their analysis showed doctors consistently gave out more tadalafil and sildenafil in the most deprived areas than the richest.

They prescribed an average of 125.8 boxes of the drugs per 1,000 men in 2019, with a pack containing between four and 24 pills. Rates were 21 per cent higher in cities including Bradford and Liverpool than in well-off Ascot and Windsor in Berkshire.

They were 50 per cent higher in the North East and North West than in London.

Study co-author Dr Vibhu Paudyal said: ‘Many of the risk factors for erectile dysfunction – such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and mental health conditions – are more prevalent in areas of greater deprivation.

Research from Birmingham and Warwick universities shows that the greatest increase in prescriptions is in the north where men have grown more comfortable discussing the problem

‘The cause needs to be established and patients should be referred to specialist clinics where appropriate as a physical examination can reveal unexpected diagnoses.’

Fellow author Dr Saval Khanal said the problems experienced by sufferers can lead to ‘a lower quality of life’. He added: ‘The rise in prescriptions suggests more men are aware of the condition and willing to seek help.’

Martin Tod, chief executive of the Men’s Health Forum, welcomed the study, saying: ‘Erection problems can be a real source of unhappiness but often something can be done.’

Patents for both drugs have expired, meaning the NHS can use cheaper alternatives. This cut the cost from £77.4million in 2009, despite the rise in demand, said the study in BJGP Open, a journal of the Royal College of GPs.

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