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Viagra blindness claim

Federal health officials are examining rare reports of blindness among some men using the impotence drug Viagra.

The Food and Drug Administration is investigating but has no evidence yet that the drug is to blame, said spokeswoman Susan Cruzan.

This type of blindness is called NAION, or nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy. It can occur in men who are diabetic or have heart disease, the same conditions that can cause impotence and thus lead to Viagra use.

The FDA has 50 reports of the blindness. Viagra has been taken by more than 23 million men worldwide.

On its Web site, Viagra manufacturer Pfizer Inc., states: "The most common side effects of Viagra are headache, facial flushing and upset stomach. Less common are bluish or blurred vision, or being sensitive to light. These may occur for a short time."

FDA is working with Pfizer to determine what, if any, information about the condition should be added to the drug's label.

The U.S. government approved Viagra in 1998. The drug may aid in the treatment of enlarged hearts that can result from high blood pressure, tests on animals indicate.

Viagra, approved to treat erectile dysfunction, should not be used by men with heart conditions whose doctors have warned them not to have sex. Also, patients taking drugs that contain nitrates have been warned not to take Viagra because of sudden, unsafe drops in blood pressure.

Pfizer, the New York-based maker of Viagra, said in its most recent quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that sales of the drug rose 5 percent -- to $438 million in the first quarter of the year. Pfizer also said at the time that Viagra had a 68 percent worldwide market share.

 
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