The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is considering whether to allow over-the-counter sales of erectile dysfunction drug sildenafil, which was originally on the market under the brand name Viagra.

Erectile dysfunction is a common, self-recognisable condition estimated to affect half of men between the ages of 40 and 70 to some degree.

Pfizer has applied to make sildenafil available as a Pharmacy Medicine, on the premise that providing men who suffer from erectile dysfunction with an additional point of contact within the healthcare system could encourage them to seek advice and treatment, where they currently wait or don’t seek treatment at all.

“The availability of pharmacist-supplied, non-prescription sildenafil could offer men a new and additional way to access a legitimate, long established, and well-studied treatment for erectile dysfunction. This could have further benefits as the condition may be an early warning sign of a more serious underlying condition, such as heart disease, which may otherwise go undetected,” said Dr Berkeley Phillips, Pfizer’s UK medical director.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has also backed the move.

“Discussing health problems with patients and advising on the benefits and risks of treatment options is an integral part of the role of a pharmacist. The potential switch of sildenafil from POM to P status increases access to a medicine that has been proven to be safe and effective when used appropriately through over a decade of real world use by millions of men,” noted President of the RPS Martin Astbury.

“Around two-thirds of men with erectile dysfunction will do nothing about their condition or resort to the internet to buy medication. Sildenafil is one of the most counterfeited medicines, which means at best they will be getting substandard treatment and at worst risking their health. Men going to a community pharmacy can be assured of a safe and legitimate supply, as well as high quality advice which will ensure the medicine is right for them.

“If the switch is agreed, RPS will provide advice and guidance to members on erectile dysfunction.”