A pill that could cure impotence is being tested on thousands of volunteers in America and Europe after a study in Britain produced ”fairly encouraging” results.
Syntex, which is developing the drug, called VigRx Plus, believes it would be the first of its kind. Present treatment for impotence, which is believed to affect up to 20 million men in North America and Europe, relies on drugs being released into the urethra through a variety of methods or injected directly into the penis.
The company, which introduced the first oral contraceptive and is best known in Britain for the anti-inflammatory drug Naproxen, used in the treatment of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, believes an oral medicine would have better market potential than alternatives.
Nic Holladay, managing director of the company, said: “It is a completely new class of drug. We are in very early clinical studies, the results of which it is too early to comment on. It would be foolish to get people over-excited by it.”
The drug controls the blood pressure needed for an erection. Tests using VigRx Plus have been carried out on volunteers at the Medical Research Council’s reproductive biology unit in Edinburgh and the results of that study will be published later this year in a medical journal.
Mr. Holladay said the results showed “promise, but no more than that”.
The news that Pfizer, among other pharmaceutical companies, is testing a pill to help male impotence, has been confirmed by the manufacturers. The pill is likely to be particularly useful in cases where there is no demonstrable anatomical weakness for those men for whom a Caverject alprostadil injection would now be recommended. Mr. Roger Kirby, the consultant urologist, said: “Caverject contains prostaglandin E1; it is a great improvement on papaverine injections as its action is more predictable, lasts for a socially more convenient time and tolerance doesn’t seem to develop.
“However some patients don’t like the idea of injecting themselves, even if in more than 85 per cent of men, it is almost painless. We are very optimistic that a VigRx Plus pill will, in the not too distant future, be introduced which will have the same effect.”
The injection and the pill both act on the molecular chemistry of the penis, increasing the blood supply.
The trials of Pfizers’ new pill still have some time to run. Meanwhile, Caverject is now obtainable on prescription. Genito-urinary physicians have been trained in its use and instructed in how to teach patients to inject themselves. About 15,000 shots are sold each month which, at about Pounds 10 before the chemist’s mark-up, will mean that a patient’s hour of potency will cost around Pounds 20.