It's all about Viagra - but is that a bad thing?

By : Sophie | Published : Friday April 13, 2012 | Posted in : Men's Health
Mouth shut up

As far as infamy of prescription medications goes, few are as well-known as Viagra. The medication was launched to great fanfare in 1998, largely because it was the first prescription medication to be approved for the purpose of impotence treatment. Since then, it has remained popular, and due in no small part to patent restrictions it is one of Pfizer’s greatest assets in terms of product. Viagra has become the first and last word in any discussion about impotence. But is this actually to the detriment of the discussion?

Viagra has become so notorious - to the extent that it is sometimes referred to as a cultural icon - that it tends to attract all the attention when it comes to impotence treatment. Few people are aware that there are other impotence medications available which offer different benefits but equal efficacy. This is problematic because it could mean that someone with an underlying health problem, such as high cholesterol, takes Viagra because they recognise the name rather than the more suitable medication Levitra, which is effective at a lower dosage, making it more appropriate for such people. Similarly, many people are unaware that another medication to treat impotence, named Cialis is effective for 36 hours, which is considerably longer than its competitors.

This is not to say that these alternative medications are better than Viagra, nor that there is anything wrong with Viagra itself, but simply that it is a problem if people are unaware that there is a choice. Many men who suffer from impotence find discussing the problem extremely difficult, making it less likely that they will be able to find out that such a choice is available to them. It may be that the notoriety of Viagra actually makes discussions about impotence more difficult, as for many people who have no experience of impotence it is simply the butt of a good joke.

Furthermore, any new research that is undertaken into impotence is often overshadowed by the word “Viagra”, with immediate assumptions made as to what can be achieved or not achieved by new ways to treat impotence. Just last week, the Daily Mail published an article claiming that the hormone oxytocin could produce “results on a par with Viagra”. The NHS have since posted a far more detailed explanation of why this link between Viagra and oxytocin is unfounded based on the case study in question, so I won’t go into that here, though I highly recommend reading the NHS piece if you are curious.

What is important here is how the Daily Mail’s reaction to the oxytocin study is so indicative of a general knee-jerk reaction in the media to any study related to male sexual health. The study on which the aforementioned article is based was not even intended to investigate the effects of oxytocin on a man’s sexual performance or ability, it just so happened that the individual who took part in the study was observed to have experienced improvement in his ability to attain an erection. It is the media who have seized on this relatively small detail from the study and equated it with the effects of Viagra. Reports on the effects of the oxytocin also noted that his libido and sexual arousal was also reportedly improved, but any attempts to compare this to the effects of Viagra are erroneous, as Viagra has no effect on libido or sexual arousal, contrary to popular belief.

This is all important because it adds to the unhelpful myth-making that surrounds Viagra; far too many people mistakenly believe that Viagra is able to boost libido, and the media does little to dispel the myth. In fact, some articles actively reinforce such myths. What would ultimately be more beneficial for everyone - not just those who actually experience sexual health problems like erectile dysfunction - is if more of an effort was made to print more factual and informative information rather than sacrificing medical accuracy for the sake of a good story. It may not be “sexy”, but at least it’s honest.