Italian Rx Hits Below the Belt: No Viagra

By Phoebe Natanson

Mar 30, 2012 1:10pm

“No Viagra, No Party” screamed the banners held by protest marchers in Rome, causing alarm among men who need a little lift from the “little blue pill.”

Many Italians are upset about the radical new reforms being introduced by Italian Prime Minster Mario Monti, and his ‘technocrat’ government.  Among the reforms, is a plan to open up competition in many professions that previously were limited by the number of licenses issued.

The new plan would impact hospital pharmacists throughout Italy by drastically increasing competition. Now the pharmacists are steaming mad and vowing to hit Italians where it hurts.

The hospital pharmacists’ union has announced a series of strikes starting next month, which would culminate in an organized refusal to sell Viagra in their shops.

Union official Loredana Vasselli said hospital pharmacists had chosen Viagra for their “provocative” protest Thursday because “it is a highly sought after drug whose absence does not put patients’ health at risk.”

Sales of the so-called “little blue pill”  in Italy have been rising steadily as attitudes about using drugs to correct this “bedroom problem” have slowly changed among Italian.

When the drug was launched on the Italian market more than a decade ago, men seemed disdainful, a seeming affront to their machismo.  Former PM Berlusconi, who was proud to boast about his sexual prowess, even declared publicly that he had no need for the impotence drug despite being over 70. (Though not many Italians actually believed him.)

It is unclear  just how much this protest will impact Italian relationships behind closed doors, as many men already choose to buy their Viagra discreetly online, rather than from pharmacies.

Other professional groups are also up in arms about the government reforms. Numerous protests and strikes have been staged over the last few months, but generally Italians seem to be accepting the reforms, seeing them as essential for the country’s economic survival.

It remains to be seen whether the pharmacists’ threat will raise the kind of awareness the  pharmacists union is after.  Those who do buy the drug in hospital pharmacies may see a protest against selling Viagra — if the pharmacists go through with it — as an unjust vendetta and a low blow to those in real need.

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