US Congress has passed a motion banning Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for erectile dysfunction drugs under its new coverage law, which comes into effect in 2006.

The amendment, which was proposed by US congressman, Steve King, was passed by 285 votes to 121 and will halt public funds from being made available to fund erectile dysfunction drugs – including Pfizer’s Viagra (sildenafil).

Back in February this year, it emerged that ED drugs would be covered under the new Medicaid scheme [[02/02/05f]], although this received strong opposition from the outset. In response, Mr King said: “Medicare system is already strained, and taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for drugs that aren’t medically necessary” [[18/05/05f]].

However, the National Prostate Cancer Coalition slammed the move, saying that it lumped together those with ED and those who abuse the system. “Erectile dysfunction drugs are not ‘lifestyle’ drugs to prostate cancer patients,” said chief executive, Richard Atkins “Men already have a great reluctance when it comes to paying attention to their health – significantly downsizing access to the opportunity to fight side-effects of life-saving treatments gives them another excuse.”

The NPCC cited figures from a University of Chicago study, which show that when comparing treatment options, 68% of men were willing to trade off a 10% or greater advantage in five-year survival rates to maintain sexual potency. Other data reveal that 89% of men could not achieve an erection six months after prostate cancer surgery.