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The new pill that works faster than Viagra

Impotence or, to give it its correct name, erectile dysfunction affects an astounding one in ten men in the UK.Until recently, the disorder was a taboo subject, but with increased publicity in the last few years, even the most reluctant men are beginning to seek medical help.

For years, the only treatment option was injections into the penis. Then came Viagra, the little blue pill that works directly on smooth muscle – a type of muscle in our bodies that we can’t control consciously – to allow blood to flow into the penis and cause an erection.

To date, 15 million men worldwide have depended on Viagra to stop their impotence.

But this summer a new drug, Uprima, was released onto the market which works on the parts of the brain that control smooth muscle contractions to give the same effect as Viagra, only quicker.

Uprima targets the parts of the brain which control the movement of smooth muscle in the penis, stimulating it to relax and boosting blood flow.

Unlike Viagra, which is a pill swallowed with food, Uprima is a tablet that dissolves under the tongue and has an effect in 15 minutes rather than the hour it takes for Viagra to work.

This fast action means that the drug is more spontaneous than Viagra, says Dr Wallace Dinsmore of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, which can make a difference to some men.

Men who find erectile dysfunction frustrating, embarrassing and hard to talk about, says Dr Dinsmore, may abstain from sex rather than admit to having a problem.

Wives and girlfriends often don’t realise there is a physical problem and assume their partners are having an affair or have lost interest.

Viagra and Uprima don’t work unless there is some sexual stimulation there to start with, so they are best used by people who do feel sexually stimulated but have erection problems rather than those who suffer from a low libido. Although impotence can be a cause of low libido in itself because of self confidence problems.

The main cause of impotence, says Dr Dinsmore, is the hardening or obstruction of blood vessels which leads to decreased blood flow. As it is increased blood flow which causes the penis to become erect normally, a lack of blood can cause erectile problems.

Uprima and Viagra work on the principle that if the smooth muscle is relaxed, blood flow will be easier and erectile dysfunction will disappear. For 80 to 90 percent of men, he says, one or other of these drugs will be effective.

Most of the underlying causes of impotence involve blood vessels, says Dr Dinsmore. Smoking, diseases like diabetes, heavy drinking and heart problems can all lead to blood vessel obstruction and therefore impotence, he says, whilst emotional issues can exacerbate the problem.

Uprima has been around since June and is growing in popularity. Dr Dinsmore suggests that rather than thinking of it as a competitor to Viagra, the two drugs should be used as alternatives.

Whilst Viagra’s generalised effects might be better for some men, the faster action and spontaneity of Uprima might suit others best. Both are very straightforward, simple drugs with few side effects, he says.

Although it is available on the NHS, Uprima is covered by the same strict prescribing rules as Viagra which forbids GPs prescribing either drug except for men who suffer MS, diabetes, Parkinsons, kidney or liver failure or severe spinal injury.

GPs are able to give a private prescription which means you can purchase the drug through your pharmacy or chemist by paying the full rate rather than the discounted prescription rate. This cost is approximately £20 but varies between pharmacies.

Many GPs are unwilling to prescribe the drugs themselves and will prefer to make a referral to a specialist for a prescription, says Dr Dinsmore. Before prescription, your GP or specialist will check your blood pressure, blood sugar levels and general health to make sure it is safe for you to take the drugs.

Interestingly, both treatments emerged from other cures – Viagra was originally designed as a treatment for Angina and Uprima was originally used for Parkinsons but doctors noticed that one of the side effects of both drugs was that they restored erections in impotent men.

Seeing a GP for a prescription rather than buying abroad or online is very important, he warns, because both drugs can cause side effects in some men. Uprima can cause nausea and light-headedness whilst Viagra has been reported to lead to facial flushing, sinusitis and joint and muscle pain in some men.

Not only can they be dangerous in the wrong hands, most people don’t realise that it is currently illegal to possess either drug in the UK unless you have a prescription, Dr Dinsmore warns.

Because of the immense publicity surrounding impotence, which used to be a problem that stayed behind firmly closed doors, more treatments are being developed all the time. The most promising of these is Cialis, which works on the same principle as Viagra and Uprima to relax smooth muscle but promises less side effects and a longer action time, giving it it’s nickname – the ‘weekend pill’. Cialis has been shown in trials to be effective in 85 per cent of men. The drug is pending approval and could be available in the next year, so watch this space.

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