“If There’s a Will, There’s A Pill”

Healthbeat 1998 No. 2.jpgHealthbeat 1998 No. 2.jpg

On October 12, after 10 months of long wait, Viagra was finally approved by the DOH for sale and distribution in the country. Viagra, an anti-impotency pill for males, costs P450 and was initially available at 850 drugstores nationwide according to Pfizer, its manufacturer. It was approved only after the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) found it safe and effective after clinical trials held in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and the Philippines. The tests proved the efficacy of Viagra to Asian men.

The DOH stressed that the pill, which will be sold only through doctor’s prescriptions, is not a recreational drug and that it should be used only by men with impotency problems.

Meanwhile, although the Catholic Church had no problems with the entry of Viagra in the local market, it emphasized that the pill should only be taken by married men with erectile dysfunction (ED) and not by single men. The church said that allowing unmarried males to use the pill will only lead to promiscuity.

Long before the sale and distribution of Viagra were approved in the country, custom authorities at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), seaports and local airports kept a tight watch on its illegal importation. During that period, custom officials closely monitored arriving passengers, especially those coming from the United States who might have attempted to bring the drug in.

Sixty tablets of Viagra were seized at the NAIA last July. The shipment, which originated from the US, was intercepted during a routine check on cargoes from Singapore.

Even while the franchise of Viagra was still with the BFAD pending studies on its effectiveness, the controversial pill already penetrated the trade market in Mindanao. The Economic Intelligence and Investigation Bureau in Region 12 (Cotabato) confirmed that the pills were shipped into the cities of Cotabato, General Santos, and Zamboanga through the southern backdoor of board boats from Malaysia that carried barter goods.

In the same period, Viagra sales also went up in Subic. According to an American expatriate, several pilots from multinational courier were engaged in black market sales of the said drug. A single pill reportedly sold at $50 each or its equivalent P2,000. The said pilots reportedly purchased the drugs during regular scheduled flights to the US.

Meanwhile, a 68-year-old Filipino teacher from Cebu was the first local case involving alleged ill effects of Viagra. The man, who allegedly brought the pills from the black market, was rushed to the hospital after taking three pills at one-day intervals in a week’s time. The man reportedly suffered massive chest pains after taking the pills.

After the said case was reported, BFAD warned men that Viagra is not paracetamol that could be used without proper medical advice. A single tablet was selling for P1,300 in the black market.

According to the Philippine Erectile Dysfunction Organization (PEDRO), Inc., about 3.5 million Filipinos aged 40 to 70 are suffering from impotence.