The latest report from the Congressional Budget Office in the USA which estimates that the government will spend almost $2 billion in the next decade on male impotence drugs has caused uproar in the United States.

Under the Medicare programme, which provides health insurance for some 43 million elderly and disabled Americans, erectile dysfunction drugs such as Pfizer’s Viagra (sildenafil), Eli Lilly’s Cialis (tadalafil) and Bayer’s Levitra (vardenafil) will be covered as of January 1, 2006 [[02/02/05f]], and some politicians and taxpayer groups are not best pleased at the sums involved.

Leading the complaints is Congressman Steve King, an Iowa Republican who wants legislation to be passed that will outlaw Medicare coverage for what he refers to as “recreational sex drugs,” He added that the “Medicare system is already strained, and taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for drugs that aren’t medically necessary.” He has submitted a bill which has 26 co-sponsors, but he wants more names before calling for hearings.

Mr King received the support of National Taxpayers Union President John Berthoud who said that “there can be no doubt that the Founding Fathers did not envision paying for the sex lives of senior citizens as among the proper activities of the federal government.”

However, Medicare officials said the law required them to cover products approved by the US Food and Drug Administration that are medically necessary, and erectile dysfunction drugs fit the bill. This view was echoed by Jeff Trewhitt, a spokesman for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, who told the Washington Times newspaper that the group was still looking at the CBO’s estimate but confirmed it is opposed to Mr King’s position.

“Products that treat erectile dysfunction are part of the overall treatment of patients. Medicare and Medicaid patients should not be like second-class citizens when their diseases are treated,” he concluded.