Saturday, September 19, 2009

Diggers' Viagra costs us millions

WAR veterans who fought on the battlefield only to later battle in the bedroom have cost taxpayers almost $12 million in impotence medication.
The ``blue-pill''-popping veterans, who are also receiving free drugs that are injected into the penis, have turned to the Federal Government's generous Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for their erectile dysfunction.
In exclusive data provided to The Courier-Mail, the office of Veterans' Affairs Minister Alan Griffin revealed that more than 12,000 Diggers had been issued almost 165,000 scripts at a cost of $11.9 million between 2004 and 2008.
Most prescriptions were for sildenafil citrate - Viagra.
It comes as the Returned Services League national president, Bill Crews, said it was possible some Diggers might have trouble conceiving because of their military service.
``War-caused conditions can manifest themselves in a number of ways,'' Mr Crews said.
He said it was important that veterans had a good quality of life after serving their country.
More veterans may be eligible for the benefit but were too embarrassed to speak to their doctor, he said.
Australian Medical Association vice-president Steve Hambleton said most people were not entitled to Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme-subsidised impotence drugs, which cost almost $80 for a pack of four pills.
Dr Hambleton said funding the drugs was relatively cheap compared with many medicines provided under the veterans' scheme.
Funding is restricted to four doses - 16 pills - a month and prescriptions have to be approved every six months.
A spokeswoman for Mr Griffin said veterans could receive the drugs when GPs determined their erectile dysfunction was because of an ``accepted disability''.
``The long-term effects of war can be pervasive and providing access to erectile dysfunction medicines is a measured attempt to respond to a health issue suffered by some of our veterans due to their war service,'' she said.
``Prescription is tightly controlled. However, it does allow these veterans to have a family life despite their physical or mental health disabilities.''
She said some younger veterans' dysfunction stemmed from war-caused spinal injuries or post traumatic stress disorder.
Requests for the medication under the scheme were considered on a case-by-case basis.
The department does not provide the drugs when the treatment of another medical condition is the cause of the impotence.
Into the breach P14-15