VIAGRA ROW HOTS UP.

Author:Darwish, Adel
 
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As the viagra dispute goes on, Egyptian pharmacists are losing out to herbalists and quacks. From Adel Darwish in Cairo.

Viagra -- the libido enhancing drug -- has caused a dispute between Egypt's Pharmacist Union (EPU) and the country's Minister of Health, who banned its sale, thus helping boost black market sales and the purchase of non-licensed herbal alternatives.

The minister, Dr Ismael Sallam, said he was waiting for the Drug and Medicine Administration (DMA) to carry out further tests and studies. But pharmacists accuse the minister, who controls the DMA, of delaying tactics after he told a conservative newspaper he believes selling Viagra, the US-licenced drug which claims to solve impotency, on a large scale could destroy traditional family ties. Assurances by his deputy, Dr Jamila Moussa, a member of the EPU, that the minister's views were his own and did not reflect official policy, cut no ice with angry pharmacists.

As men and women in the West join the scuffle to obtain supplies of Viagra, EPU sources put local pharmacists' losses at E269 million [pounds sterling] ($92 million) in the last three months alone.

They warn of the possible danger to public health of selling drugs on the black market and are unhappy about an upsurge in the sale of herbs and potency potions dispensed by Attarin (quacks in traditional perfume and herb stores) who practice outside Ministry of Health control.

Accusing her of siding with the government, pharmacists last week voted to strip Dr Moussa of her Pharmacists Union membership, without which she cannot practice.

They threatened to strike, shutting over 100,000 pharmacies, if the Ministry decides to pursue threats to inspect chemists for "non-licensed drugs".

"Alhamdullilah -- thank god for the good news," said 64 year old Haj Ahamad Batrawi puffing on his narjilla (water pipe) as he read the EPU decision in the paper. "Who needs the American blue pill?" he said...

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