Weak excuses

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 January, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 January, 1999, 12:00am

Not since penicillin came on to the market in 1941, has any drug attracted such widespread public acclaim as Viagra.

Scarcely a week goes by without a television programme, a newspaper article or a scientific journal reporting on the benefits and drawbacks of the wonder drug that has changed the lives of millions of men from Minneapolis to Macau. But not, of course, Hong Kong.

In the corridors of Lower Albert Road, bureaucracy is often not so much impotent, as moribund. The Health Department is still processing data before it decides if it can be sanctioned for use.

The outcome can hardly be in doubt. If medical authorities in every other country in the developed world have judged Viagra to be safe, it seems unlikely that the civil servants of the SAR will stumble on a side-effect that scientists elsewhere have failed to detect. It has already been approved by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board. Apart from approval by the Legislative Council, which is unlikely to risk every last vote at the ballot box by turning the drug down, only red tape is delaying its availability.

Predictably, men who want to use the drug are going elsewhere for supplies. Since there is a health risk for people who are taking certain other types of medication, doctors are concerned that Viagra should be released here as soon as possible, so that it can be prescribed under supervision.

If the authorities really want to protect men's health, they should cut the red tape and hand the drug to the doctors.