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Can legal online sales kill off conmen?

Legal online sales of erectile dysfunction drugs are going well according to the UK's first providers of such a service.

Dr Thom, which runs the private service marketed as 'the UK's only online impotence treatment service that is registered with the Healthcare Commission', say that over 50% of their virtual patients have never sought treatment for their ED before.

Dr Thom's medical director Thomas Van Every says: 'In an ideal world, all men who suffer from erectile dysfunction would go to their GP for help. The reality is that embarrassment often prevents men from seeking treatment.'

Indeed, according to the Sexual Dysfunction Association, although 2.3 million men in the UK experience erectile dysfunction. only 10% seek treatment.

A spokesman for Dr Thom who set up the service in conjunction with Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust a month ago said: 'We're already seeing patients who had a trial course of treatment coming back for ongoing treatment.

'Our doctors have also been pleased to see that the average age of men seeking treatment is mid-50's. This is important to our doctors because it suggests that men accessing the service are doing so for genuine medical reasons, whereas if the average age was 25 we might have concerns that patients sought treatment for recreational purposes.'

ED is frequently a symptom of something more serious such as heart disease or diabetes. One concern is that online prescribing may fail to make men aware of this.

Dr Thom say they do provide information on these more serious conditions if this appears necessary. 'Talking to men about ED enables us to raise these issues,' said the spokesman. 'ED is always a symptom as far as our doctors are concerned not a condition in itself. While we are unable to monitor patients for heart disease and diabetes, the important thing is that we are able to use our interaction with the patient to encourage them to seek help for these more serious conditions.'

How the service works:

  • To access the service, a patient must register on the DrThom website and complete a free online questionnaire. (To answer it, the patient will need to know their blood pressure.)
  • The questionnaire and subsequent dialogue allow a doctor to assess a patient's suitability for treatment.
  • If a doctor judges that treatment is suitable, the patient has the opportunity to trial the service for £45 (four tablets) paying online using a debit or credit card.
  • All common drugs treatments such as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra are available and are mailed by first class recorded delivery.
  • To receive follow-up and ongoing treatment, a patient contacts DrThom via their online patient record and tells a doctor of any side-effects and whether initial treatment was effective.
  • To comply with General Medical Council (GMC) guidelines on remote prescribing, the patient is given the name and GMC number of the doctor who prescribed treatment.
  • More at

What do you think? Can legal online sales help or does it further undermine the NHS and the man's relationship with his GP? Does it meet a need or blur the line encouraging less-safe online buying?

Page created on October 29th, 2007

Page updated on December 1st, 2009