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Celebrity couple + drug endorsement = risk to men’s health

January 28th, 2007

Dr Petra

According to the tabloids today UK television presenters Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan advocate using Viagra.

Television’s celebrity couple have certainly attracted a lot of attention with tabloid coverage referring to them as ‘Richard and Rudey’. In an interview with the Sunday Mirror Madeley explains how they took the drug:
“he [Richard] pinched some pills which were left over from a feature on their show to try afterwards. Richard said: “We had two actually – one each….Then he added: “It’s not in any way an aphrodisiac. However it is functional in the sense it makes everything last much longer and return, y’know, swiftly and hang around all day, kind of thing.””

Press coverage makes it clear the couple don’t have any problems and took the pills as an ‘experiment’, just in case you did start to think the couple could need treatment for sex problems: “Richard insisted: “I want to make it quite clear I don’t need Viagra. It was an experiment.” Judy, 58, added: “I can vouch for that”.

What isn’t made clear is the programme where the drugs were made available focused on men with a genuine medical case of erectile dysfunction – who were prescribed the drugs under medical supervision. It is not clear whether Madeley and Finnigan had any medical supervision when they took the tablets although we can guess that probably wasn’t the case.

It seems the couple have chosen to make this particular revelation because their new TV series begins tomorrow.

Most of the tabloids have picked up on the story, as have a number of regional papers and radio stations. We can probably expect more coverage of this sex drug admission in the press tomorrow – not least on the couple’s television show.

Without exception newspaper coverage today has focused on the couple taking the drug in a nudge-nudge wink-wink kind of way. It’s just a saucy admission from the celebrity duo with no disclaimer about the safe use of the drug reported.

In short it’s a great advert for a product, it completely misrepresents what the drug does, and it’s going to encourage a lot of people who don’t need to take Viagra to decide to self-medicate.

Nowhere are readers told that ED drugs like Viagra are designed specifically for men with chronic health conditions that require medication. Readers are not told that they should not be taking ED drugs as an ‘experiment’ or that such drugs should only be prescribed by a GP – not bought online or through friends or colleagues. Drugs like Viagra come with a number of side effects that can range from the unpleasant to the fatal, and drug companies have been accused of making ED drugs seem like benign ‘lifestyle products’ – which the ‘Richard and Rudey’ story does nothing to challenge. The story endorses the use of Viagra for women even though trials of the product in women were discontinued and it is neither tested nor approved for safe use in females. Drug companies have been known to employ sportsmen, politicians and celebrities to endorse their ED products – could that be happening here?

Is it a case of two television presenters who should know better just speaking without thinking? Is it a case of journalists not bothering to check on what they’re reporting? Or is it something more sinister?

If I were reporting the ‘Richard and Rudey’ story I’d want to know the following….

- Were they paid by a drug company to make these quotes in the press?
- Why did they decide to make these quotes now?
- If a drug company didn’t pay them were they aware their statements could put men’s health at risk?
- How much money was this news coverage worth to the drug company concerned – and could a sum of money to that value be offered to charity?
- What are the roles and responsibilities of public figures around promoting drugs in unsafe ways – particularly those noted for bringing health messages to the public?
- What does the TV channel that hosts their show (which is a public affairs programme) think about endorsing unsafe drug use?
- Did anyone involved in the promotion of the couple’s forthcoming series tell them to make these statements to boost ratings?
- In the original programme where the drugs were available why was no control made over who could help themselves to left over drugs? A doctor was involved in the programme, why didn’t they collect unused medications after the show and dispose of them appropriately?
- Why hasn’t the drug company concerned put out a statement explaining the appropriate use of the drug?

If you have problems with getting and keeping an erection, or if you suffer from health problems that hamper your erections you can speak in confidence to your GP who will be able to give you a full health MOT and see if ED drugs are right for you. You can also get confidential advice from the Sexual Dysfunction Association.

Never buy ED drugs online or take herbal or generic products without speaking to your doctor first. These are medications for serious medical conditions, not for recreational or ‘experimental’ use. Not even if a famous TV couple tell you it’s fine – it isn’t.

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