A different approach to quitting smoking!!!
VIAGRA ALERT Dec 13 2006
Exclusive 900 docs warned in smoking pill mix-up
By Natalie Walker
SMOKERS wanting help to kick their habit have mistakenly been prescribed Viagra by their GPs.
A major computer blunder has led to doctors giving patients the anti-impotence pill instead of the anti-smoking drug Zyban.
Doctors have only just been warned about the error - six weeks after the problem is understood to have started.
And one GP said yesterday they had been told the computer problem, which could potentially affect hundreds of people, will not be fixed until next month.
Hundreds of patients are prescribed Zyban in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area, where the blunder has been uncovered.
All 900 GPs at the board's 300 surgeries have been sent an email warning about the problem.
It has been traced to an IT system called the Glasgow e-Formulary, a list of the most popular drugs which makes it easier for GPs to complete prescriptions.
When GPs try to select Zyban, the computer instead selects sildenafil - the generic name for Viagra.
Experts are now working to pinpoint the technical problem in the system, used by more than 95 per cent of surgeries in the health board area.
The Glasgow GP said: "In some cases, it's possible GPs will have spotted the problem after printing out a prescription to sign.
"But some will not and unsuspecting patients will have gone to the chemists and unknowingly ordered Viagra.
"There is a chance the pharmacist would spot this, especially if it was a woman who handed in the prescription.
"But there would be no reason to double check when a man handed it in.
"One of these drugs helps you give up while the other helps you get it up.
"Thankfully, the side-effects of taking Viagra, even in error, are not too serious. It is unlikely anyone's lives have been put at risk.
"There is every chance a good few patients have ended up taking Viagra by mistake.
"Many might not even know they have taken Viagra.
"That is, of course, unless they found they had different urges than before.
"But it is sure to have raised a few laughs."
The doctor added patients who spotted the name of the drug were likely to think sildenafil was another name for Zyban.
He said: "The majority tend to trust what GPs tell them and would have no reason to question a prescription."
Another GP said patients who were new users of Zyban would not know the pills came in small round white capsules - rather than the trademark blue diamond of Viagra.
He added: "These are interesting drugs to get confused.
"Zyban was developed as an antidepressant and has a curious side-effect in that it reduces many patients' urge to smoke.
"Viagra gives the urge to do something quite different.
"What baffles me is that the health board has said it will not be able to fix the error until the new year.
"Goodness knows how many people could be prescribed the wrong drug by the time it is sorted."
A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said the error occurred as a result of the general practice administration system for Scotland (GPASS) being upgraded.
She said: "A glitch was discovered by two Glasgow GP practices that use the Glasgow e-Formulary, following a recent update of the online GPASS system used throughout Scotland.
"An advisory email and memo was issued to all practices which use GPASS and have installed the e-Formulary to alert staff."
The spokeswoman added the health authority did not believe patient care would be affected, as prescriptions should be double-checked by doctors and pharmacy staff.
Last week, the British Medical Association in Scotland called for GPASS to be scrapped or updated after problems including medical notes going missing.