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Young Men Lead Surge in Viagra Use

Research Shows Threefold Boost Among Men Aged 18-45

Better Performance, Even if Not Needed continued...

Andrew McCullough, MD, director of male sexual health, fertility, and microsurgery at New York University Medical Center, agrees there has "definitely" been an increase in Viagra use by younger men. But he says many are getting it from doctors because of psychological, not physiological, problems.

"Yes, there is a subset of young guys who are using Viagra who don't need it, but they can easily go on the Internet and get it without a prescription," he tells WebMD. "They don't need the stigma of going to their doctors. They get [email] spam advertisements every day."

In his practice, he notes that young men often seek Viagra because of performance anxiety. "These are often men who are anxious about new relationships and can't perform. Is that sexual enhancement or a reaction to sexual intimacy? They are taking Viagra and I think they should. Certainly they need to address the psychological issues, but I don't want them to withdraw from relationships because they don't want to go through the humiliation of not being able to have an erection or perform well. Everyone is watching Sex In The City and there's a lot of pressure and performance anxiety."

Older Men Still Best Customers

Pfizer spokesman Daniel Watts says the typical Viagra user is age 53 and that his company doesn't keep records of users younger than 33. Company data indicates that 8% of prescriptions are written for men between ages 34 and 40. That compares with 26% of prescriptions for men in their 40s, 36% for men in their 50s, and 22% for men in their 60s.

"We can only assume the physician is prescribing Viagra on an erectile dysfunction diagnosis," he tells WebMD. "It's difficult for us to determine what level the drug is being used for sexual enhancement. It could be happening out there, but we don't know to what degree."

But he does acknowledge that his company (as well as Viagra's competitors) has shifted direct-to-consumer advertising. Former senator Bob Dole, who pitched Viagra to treat a common problem for men in his age group, has been replaced by younger drug "spokesmen" such as under-40 baseball player Rafael Palmeiro. Just weeks ago in Venezuela, 63-year-old soccer legend Pele was dropped as that country's Viagra pitchman in favor of a popular 40-year-old game show host for a new $2 million marketing campaign.

"There are young men suffering from ED," explains Watts.

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