Viagra Hits Canada


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This article was published in the past The author of Maclean’s March 22, 1999 edition of the magazine. The partner content is not updated

Viagra is available in Canada

Bill Smith, a heavy-machine operator from Fredericton, knows he has salad days again. He has been getting samples for two years as a result of being in the Viagra clinical trials. He says that they’re free and should be used. Smith said that he has sex with his girlfriend four or five times a week. With Health Canada approving Viagra last week, and Smith’s trial coming to a close this summer, he may have to slow down. Smith doesn’t think he’ll take it every day if he has to pay for it. I will pay for it. It’s a wonder drug

It is not completely free of controversy The magazine is called Maclean’s A man from Fredericton died of a heart attack while taking part in a clinical trial, but his urologist thinks a connection with Viagra is unlikely. Patrick said he thought it was a non-issue because he didn’t take Viagra on the same day. The man died after being given nitroglycerine, a commonly used drug for patients with heart problems

Pfizer Canada will not comment on the case. The labels have warned against taking Viagra with nitrate medication for heart problems since it was approved in the US a year ago. Pfizer revised the labels in November to include more guidance for assessing cardiac risk. The U.S. authorities had recorded 130 fatal heart attacks among men taking Viagra. Paul Roufail, head of Health Canada’s medical review of Viagra, said last week that there was no cause and effect with the drug


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The drug has become a phenomenon, with 60 million pills taken by American men. Its popularity has spawned thousands of jokes and it has ripped the cover off a once-taboo topic. Entrepreneurs who sell the drug legally and illegally on the Internet have attracted others. Pfizer Canada has set aside a legal budget to prosecute anyone selling it too much. Three percent of patrons at three London nightclubs had tried the drug within weeks. “I’m not worried about the Canadian approval because people will fake symptoms to get a prescription,” says Dr. Peter Lau. “No one should be using it for fun.”

The drug is a marriage saver for Allard and Joyce, two 58-year-olds who live in rural Gilmour, Ont. Allard had a lung operation in 1990 and lost his erection. It would take a while for Joyce’s husband to regain his strength. Joyce wondered if we no longer love each other. Is the marriage over? Allard responded well to Viagra trials in Kingston, Ont., and was accepted at Joyce’s request. They began making love two or three times a week after a long spell of no love. She says it was fantastic. “We just got our life back.”

Dr. Peter Pommerville says that any debate about funding Viagra should consider savings from money that was spent on related problems. He asks how much it costs to lose self-esteem, depression, less productivity at the workplace and more stress in the family. Viagra is covered by the B.C. government health plan, but Caverject and Muse are not, because they are not covered for Erectile Functioning. British Columbia pays for penis implants, which can be done with surgery, hospital stay and exams, costing the province $15,000 per patient. Some of his patients choose that option because it is free

The provincial drug plan would allow access to those on social assistance and seniors who are likely to be Viagra’s primary users. The approval for drug coverage to citizens not covered by a plan in British Columbia, Quebec and other provinces could carry significant costs. Patrick says that Viagra is not likely to be approved for the provincial drug plan. The province has rejected his attempts to have Muse covered. He knows the ” bottomless pit of demand for medications and the shrinking public purse.”

Drug industry insiders say Quebec is the most likely province to approve Viagra because it already covers Caverject. Private insurers must cover any drug that Quebec includes, even if it is approved by the state. Jean Claude Bouchard of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association says that approval by Quebec would increase the cost of benefits for large employers and smaller companies

Barry Noble, national director of managed care for Toronto-based Manulife Financial, says his company is encouraging corporate clients to include Viagra. People with ED have a similar problem to diabetes. Noble says that if we’re allowing medications to treat the illness, how can we not treat the other side of the illness? He says denying the drug to employees may lead to a human rights challenge. He says that it may be discriminating against males. If clients don’t want to cover Viagra, we suggest they exclude the entire category of sexual dysfunction drugs, including estrogen for women

Drug company sources expect Viagra plans to have limits on their coverage. Sun Life has suggested a cap of $1,200 per eligible employee and dependant, according to Tim Verbic, marketing development manager. Noble says a limit doesn’t prevent them from buying more. No one involved in the issue expects costs to be a factor in men wanting to access the drug. Doctors who took part in trials across Canada say that even mild headaches, blue eyes, and facial flushing did not deter men from taking the drug

Ron Casselman, a doctor in St. Catharines, Ont., cautions against high expectations when writing prescriptions for his patients. Canadian regulations will exclude thousands of men who are on nitrates for their heart problems. “Viagra is not the panacea, the one everyone thought would be, it’s not,” says Casselman, who has found it ineffectual in older men who haven’t had sex in years. Viagra is a much-welcomed option, but the gold standard is still injection therapy. It should have been approved quickly

The delay in granting approval may have saved lives, says Dr. Sidney Wolfe, co-founder of the Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. He says that the United States fast-tracked its approval, meaning that Viagra was on sale there for eight months before Pfizer revised the labels. Wolfe is disappointed that Health Canada did not follow Britain’s lead and forbid doctors from giving it to anyone who has had a recent heart attack or stroke. Pfizer acknowledges that Viagra depends on co-operation between the physician and patient to make sure the drug is being used safely

Is Viagra good for the gander and the goose? Dr. Rosemary Basson studied the impact of the treatment on 14 women who were suffering from a lack of sexual arousal. Basson’s research is part of an international study sponsored by Pfizer Inc. Basson cautions against any expectation of a quick fix for a complex issue, as results have not yet been tabulated or made public. She says that many aspects of a woman’s arousal are not related to her medical status

Viagra’s success in overcoming an inability to produce erections is what makes it popular with men. Women have blood flowing through their clitoris and labia, and into the vagina, when they have sex. Basson says that women are not interested in changing the blood flow. So what? It may not increase their pleasure, their sensation, or their ability to reach orgasm. She says that little research has been done on the topic because of the complexity of female arousal


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