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Viagra Linked to Rise in STDs, Should Carry Warning Label, Study Concludes
Viagra is associated with the increased incidence of sexually transmitted diseases, especially among gay and bisexual men, and should carry a warning label, according to a study by San Francisco Department of Public Health researchers, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The study is published in this month's issue of the journal AIDS. Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, head of the health department's STD prevention and control division, and colleagues surveyed 844 men seeking treatment at city health clinics. Overall, 57% of the men were heterosexual and 42% were gay or bisexual. According to the researchers, 17% of the men reported using Viagra in the past year, with gay and bisexual men being four times more likely than heterosexuals to have used the drug. The median age of the men was 32, "suggesting that the men were using Viagra for recreational rather than medical purposes," the researchers noted. Of the gay or bisexual men who used Viagra, 43% said they used it in conjunction with the drug ecstasy, and 28% said they mixed it with methamphetamines because they believed that the combination of drugs "heightened" their sexual experience. The researchers were particularly concerned about the mixing of Viagra with other drugs because they fear that it makes men less likely to use to condoms, leading to a rise in new STD cases. Of the gay men who used Viagra, 32% were diagnosed with an STD, compared to 23% of non-Viagra users. Gay or bisexual Viagra users were more likely to have had more sexual partners than men who did not use Viagra -- 5.4 partners in the previous two months, compared to 3.5 partners. Klausner has asked the FDA and Pfizer, Viagra's maker, to include "more specific labeling" on the drug's packaging cautioning about the risk of STDs. However, FDA spokesperson Susan Cruzan noted that Viagra already comes with a warning that it does not protect against STDs, and the drug's labeling advises doctors to talk to their patients about safe sex practices, according to Pfizer spokesperson Geoff Cook, who added that the drug's current label provides an "adequat[e]" warning (Heredia, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/10).
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