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Adverts for Viagra - this little blue pill has cost Ireland $25 million since 2008 Photo by: Google Images

Free Viagra cost Irish taxpayers nearly $25 million since 2008

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Adverts for Viagra - this little blue pill has cost Ireland $25 million since 2008 Photo by: Google Images

Irish taxpayers have had to shell out almost $25 million since 2008 to pay for medical card holders' Viagra prescriptions.

The cost for Viagra and other drugs that treat erectile dysfunction, a serious condition for middle-aged and elderly men, has increased dramatically for free medical card holders in recent years.

According to the Irish Independent, figures show that spending on medicines like Viagra and Cialis for medical card holders in 2008 was $5 million  However, spending rose dramatically to $7 million in 2009 and, by 2010, had almost doubled to $9 million .

With the total budget overrun for the Health Service Executive (HSE), topping $700 million, the high cost for these types of drugs is expected to come under serious scrutiny.

On Saturday, Green Party councillor and member of the HSE West Forum Brian Meaney, questioned the cost of such drugs at a time when life and death choices are having to be made in terms of cuts.

Read more news on the Irish economy here.

"We have to cut our cloth to measure. I first raised this issue when cuts were being made to cervical cancer treatment. How does it make sense to make cuts to life and death services and retain those which are simply quality of life treatments? It is about priorities," he said.

Billy Kelleher, Fianna Fail's health spokesman, disagrees, saying that erectile dysfunction is a serious medical condition and could not be dismissed a mere "quality of life issue."

"Many people take Viagra and other medicines to allow them to start a family. We have to be conscious of those difficulties before we rush into cutting it," he added.

A HSE spokeswoman said, "To ensure availability for genuine need, but to reduce the possibility of inappropriate usage, the expert group advised that the maximum reimbursable level on the GMS and Community Drugs Schemes be set at four tablets a month."

The ingredient cost for four tablets is typically around €25 to €30.

The HSE added that the Viagra pill is also prescribed for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), and it is not possible to quantify how much is for treating erectile dysfunction or PAH.

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