Legislation would end Medicare/Medicaid funding for ED drugs

May 26, 2005

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) proposed legislation Tuesday that would end federal funding for "lifestyle" drugs such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra) to treat sexual and erectile dysfunction. Coverage would be provided if the drugs are prescribed for a purpose other than sexual performance.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) proposed legislation Tuesday that would end federal funding for "lifestyle" drugs such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra) to treat sexual and erectile dysfunction. Coverage would be provided if the drugs are prescribed for a purpose other than sexual performance.

"By eliminating all federal payments for certain 'lifestyle' drugs, the legislation restores the fundamental concept of stewardship to prescription drug coverage under federal programs," Grassley said in a statement delivered on the Senate floor. "The Congressional Budget Office estimated that Medicare and Medicaid alone will spend $2 billion on these drugs between 2006 and 2015. In my opinion, those dollars could be spent more wisely."

The legislation, entitled "Prescription Drug Coverage Stewardship Act of 2005," would be part of the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, beginning in January 2006. It would apply to patients covered under Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal programs.

"Year after year, we are forced to make difficult decisions to find ways to save money under these programs with the goal of sustaining them well into the future. In contrast to those decisions, the bill that I am introducing today was not difficult for me at all," Grassley said.

"Now some certainly may argue that these 'lifestyle' drugs can improve your life," the senator continued. "I appreciate that view. However, we live in a world of limited resources, and in that world of limited resources coverage of these 'lifestyle' drugs under Medicare--or any other federal program, in my opinion--is inconsistent with that goal of balance."

Pfizer, the maker of sildenafil, said in a statement that convicted sex offenders should be denied Medicaid coverage for ED drugs, but the company said it was essential that other Medicaid recipients diagnosed with ED have access to treatments with proven clinical benefits.

"The loss of erectile function can be caused by a number of conditions including diabetes, multiple sclerosis, damage to nerves, and blood flow problems caused by cardiovascular disease," the Pfizer statement said. "These underlying conditions are often identified by physicians when patients present with ED."