Find out if Viagra is Government Funded

In recent years, the amount of money spent by the Pentagon on Viagra has been sparking debate on various social media sites. A photo of an LA-based demonstrator holding a protest sign for an International Women’s Day celebration went viral for its curious claim that the government is funding Viagra for $41.6 million. The viral sign reads, “Viagra is gov’t funded ($41.6 mil/yr). If pregnancy is God’s will, so is limp d**k.”
While the protester’s intention was to point out the hypocrisy of the government choosing to support Viagra but not birth control or planned parenthood, the internet was left to wonder if it’s “fake news” or if Viagra is indeed government-funded.

Yes, Viagra is government funded, but…

While the aforementioned statement is misleading, it is not entirely false. According to the Military Times, The Department of Defense (DOD) has spent $41.6 million on Viagra in the past year. Additionally, they have spent a total of $84.24 million on other erectile dysfunction (ED) prescriptions. Total spending for Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra have amounted to $294 million since 2011. However, the funding is for military beneficiaries and their eligible families.

Erectile Dysfunction in the Military

Some studies have found that erectile disorder has become a growing health concern among military members in the last few years. Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch (AFHSB) conducted a study in 2014 and found that there were over 100,000 cases of ED among active servicemen between 2004 and 2013.
Another study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2015 showed that ED and other sexual problems were significantly more likely to be reported by veterans with PTSD (post-traumatic disorder) than their civilian counterparts. One in five US veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan wars are said to be suffering from PTSD or major depression.

How do Viagra and other PDE5 inhibitors work?

Viagra, or sildenafil citrate, is an oral medication used for ED in male patients over 18 years of age. It belongs to the group of drugs that inhibits the enzyme phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5). The brand name Viagra from Pfizer is formulated as a blue, diamond-shaped, film-coated tablet in varying strengths: 25mg, 50mg, and 10mg. Aside from ED, sildenafil is also being used to treat pulmonary hypertension. The revolutionary drug is still being studied for its potential to treat several other conditions.
PDE5 inhibitors work by increasing blood flow to the penis following physical or psychological sexual stimulation. In a normal individual, nitric oxide is released after sexual stimulation, which then activates the enzyme guanylate cyclase. This triggers the production of cGMP or cyclic guanosine monophosphate, the chemical responsible for controlling the amount of blood that is delivered to and removed from the penis. The enzyme PDE5 breaks down cGMP; Viagra and other PDE5 inhibitors blocks the action of PDE5 to prevent the destruction of cGMP.

Contraindications and Precautions

  • Patients who are allergic to PDE5 inhibitors should not use Viagra.
  • Medications containing nitrates (e.g., nitroglycerin, isosorbide mononitrate, or isosorbide dinitrate) should be avoided due to the potential for triggering extremely low blood pressure.
  • Care should be taken when using Viagra together with anti-hypertensive drugs.
  • Drugs that can increase the effect of PDE5 inhibitors include ketoconazole, ritonavir, erythromycin, and indinavir.
  • Those who are predisposed to priapism (erections lasting more than 4 hours) may experience exacerbated symptoms with Viagra.

The safety or efficacy of Viagra has not been established in the following groups:

  • Those who have suffered myocardial infarction (heart attack), stroke, or other serious abnormal heartbeat within the last 6 months;
  • Those with a resting blood pressure of <90/50 or >170/110;
  • Individuals with retinitis pigmentosa, a rare genetic condition that causes loss of vision;
  • And patients with sickle cell anemia and related blood disorders.

Doctors may still prescribe Viagra to these patients if the benefits outweigh the risks. Patients must report any serious side effects of this drug to medical professionals.

Viagra Alternatives

The high price of sildenafil, particularly in the form of Viagra, and other drugs for impotence have driven DOD’s spending to hit an all-time high. Healthcare providers and the Department of Health must encourage the use of generic alternatives to save on cost and increase patient compliance. If Viagra fails to help any patient’s condition, there are other available treatment plans to explore. However, they must stay away from suspicious sites selling “herbal” Viagra or other purportedly natural methods to treat ED.

  • Tadalafil (Cialis) – can be taken 1–2 hours before sexual activity and lasts up to six hours.
  • Vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn) – should be taken at least 1 hour before sex and lasts up to seven hours.
  • Avanafil (Stendra) – usually taken 15 to 30 minutes before sex and lasts up to six hours.