Valentine's Day Is Viagra Day in the U.K.

This should put a quick end to many British men's fantasies of celebrating Valentine's Day with a night of superhuman sex. Despite rumors to the contrary, Viagra will not be distributed over the counter in England, not on Valentine's Day, nor on any other day.

That is according to the British Department of Health, which is desperately trying to squash the rumor started by the High Street pharmacy chain Boots. The pharmacy chain announced it would sell Viagra without prescriptions starting on Wednesday, the day love is traditionally celebrated across the Western world.

But Viagra remains a prescription drug in the United Kingdom, and the Department of Health is categorical about keeping it that way.

The misleading rumor started after Boots announced a six-month pilot program in which pharmacists in three of its Manchester stores would run consultation sanctioning the sale of Viagra in its stores, where until then, only a certified general practitioner's prescription could grant access to the drug. If successful, the operation would extend to Boots stores across the United Kingdom.

In practice, it will be virtually impossible for Manchester residents looking for a long night on the town to bypass the law by just walking into their local Boots. An initial screening will weed out men not fitting the required 30 to 65 age category, and the 45-minute to hour-long consultation, by appointment only, will be conducted by pharmacists with five years of training. After the patient's full medical history is reviewed, his blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels checked, he will have to go through the ordeal of detailing his symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction (ED). "We would have to decide that the patient is actually suffering from his erectile dysfunction to dispense the drug," explains Boots spokesperson Claire Stafford. Lastly, the patient will still have to be registered with a general practitioner.

If that hasn't discouraged the sex bombs of this land from tempting to get a hold of the precious pills, here's another little known fact to bury the hype. Although appointments can be made on Valentine's Day, the first consultation date is not until the following Monday, Feb. 19, a bit late for a Valentine's Night of love. Not much luck for the sex-athons aficionados then, or for the perfectly healthy men and women who, like Samantha in "Sex and the City," are just hoping to have a good time.

"The press has gotten hold of the story pretty early," admits Kevin Riley, Boots Health Care Duty Manager in charge of the program, who says the media's misreading of their statement caused the false rumor. Within a few days, the buzz had gotten the attention of gay Web sites and doctors alike. And understandably so: just last month the American AIDS Health Care Foundation launched a lawsuit against Pfizer, accusing the drug manufacturer of increasing the spread of HIV/AIDS by promoting the recreational use of Viagra.

But Boots is not to blame, according to Kevin Riley. Yes, it has benefited from abundant media coverage thanks to the coincidence of the launch with Cupid's holiday, but he is quick to insist that it was just that, a coincidence. As a matter of fact, he says, "it is Impotence Day we were aiming for," and implicitly therefore, Impotence Day is to blame.

Indeed, Valentine's Day is National Impotence Day in the United Kingdom. If that isn't sufficient information to kill your sense of romance for good, you should know that it has been so for 11 years. Although not many people are aware of it, the awareness campaign is nonetheless supported by the National Health Care System, which takes that time of the year to urge the one in 10 men suffering from impotence to take action by consulting a doctor.

Heart-shaped chocolate boxes, bouquet of roses, and a thousand Hershey kisses are all good, the Sexual Dysfunction Association, which runs the campaign, seems to say, but for many in need of Viagra, the subjects of romance and erectile dysfunction are one and the same.

So they decided to celebrate Valentine's Day appropriately. One of their strongest supporters, the British Formula One racing legend Sir Stirling Moss, offered advice on ways to "reclaim the romance in your life" on a relationship counseling Web site. The association also mailed Valentine's cards with the following poem to each member of Britain's Parliament to drive their point home.

"Roses are Red

Romance is free,

Make it the same

For men with E.D."

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