90pc of impotent men willing to pay for own treatment, hospital survey shows

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 October, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 October, 1998, 12:00am

The sex drug Viagra is set to cost Hong Kong $500 million a year - but nine out of 10 patients surveyed are willing to pay for their own pills.

The Government must now decide whether to subsidise any of the cost of providing the drug to impotence sufferers before its expected arrival on the market in December.

Viagra researcher and urologist Dr Andrew Yip Wai-chun is drafting guidelines on its prescription and use.

He said the $500 million figure assumed half the impotent population would seek help from public hospitals and that four pills would be given to patients monthly, a dosage in line with what some overseas insurance companies are covering.

About 200,000 men in Hong Kong are believed to be impotent. The drug is expected to cost between $80 and $100 per tablet.

Dr Yip said that up to 90 per cent of 1,000 patients at the Kwong Wah Hospital's clinic had indicated they were happy to shoulder the costs.

A committee on Viagra comprising cardiologists, urologists, diabetes experts, psychiatrists, social workers and pharmacists is to hold its first meeting soon, to be chaired by Hospital Authority deputy director of operations Dr Ko Wing-man.

Dr Yip said the committee would decide whether sufferers whose impotence had a physical rather than psychological cause should have their drugs subsidised.

'It's a new concept for a new drug. Unlike drugs for heart diseases and diabetes, it will not be prescribed for the disease itself but on demand,' he said.

'We don't know how many drugs the patients need. And we are talking about a drug that costs up to $100 per tablet, not Panadol that only costs 10 cents.' At present, patients suffering from erectile dysfunction and receiving conventional treatment such as vacuum pumps have to pay for the pump - about $5,000.

Dr Yip said some women's groups in Western countries had criticised the use of public money to subsidise men's sexual needs.

Clinical trial results have shown 80 per cent of 64 Hong Kong men with impotence had their sex lives improved by taking Viagra. Dr Yip said participants in the trial were given free Viagra for a year.