DESPERATE patients are paying up to £360 a time for bottles of sex wonder drug Viagra.

Chemists across Brighton and Hove are being flooded with requests from people willing to buy the U.S.-made impotency tablets.

And many NHS patients are so keen to try it out they are paying to go to private clinics to have it prescribed.

Now pharmacists are cashing in on demand by marking up bottles by 50 per cent or more - most importers are paying around £230 for a bottle.

As Viagra is not yet licensed, it is only available by prescription on a 'named patient' basis, which means doctors must take direct responsibility for any side effects.

If, as expected, it is licensed next month, the Government will issue guidelines stating how and when it should be prescribed.

Provided these guidelines are followed by doctors, the company which manufactures the drug, Pfizer, will then be made liable for any harmful effects.

But the Argus has learned that some patients are already so anxious to try out Viagra that they are prepared to pay for private consultations and take the risk.

Brighton sex therapist Victoria Lehmann said: "There are a very large number of men who are not willing to wait until September or October for the Government to license it and decide how it should be prescribed.

"I've seen some men who have said they are worried their doctor is not going to prescribe it for them, so if they can get it privately, they will."

She added that, before going for a consultation, men should make sure they are fully aware of the doctor's private charges and that of the tablets themselves.

Pharmacist Ian Heath, of Westons, Coombe Terrace, Brighton, has dispensed up to a dozen bottles of 30 for £360 each in the past month.

He said: "We are supplying them to those with private prescriptions, on a named patient basis only. Most of the people so far have been middle-aged to older men."

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