Intended for healthcare professionals


Impact of erectile dysfunction and its subsequent treatment with sildenafil: qualitative study

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 29 April 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:1037
  1. John Tomlinson, director (john{at}jptomlinson.comClays)1,
  2. David Wright, Macmillan research fellow2
  1. 1Men's Health Clinic, Royal Hampshire County Hospital, Winchester SO22 5DG
  2. 2Macmillan Research Unit, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton SO17 1BJ
  1. Correspondence to: J Tomlinson,Clays Farm, East Worldham, Alton GU34 3AD
  • Accepted 20 February 2004


Objectives To determine the effects of erectile dysfunction and to explore the impact of treatment with sildenafil (Viagra).

Design An exploratory qualitative study with semistructured interviews.

Setting Men's health clinic in NHS hospital.

Participants 40 men who had had erectile dysfunction and had attended the clinic during the year before interview.

Main outcome measures Impact of erectile dysfunction on men, their expectations ofsildenafil, and impact of treatment on men and their relationships. Issues explored with exploratory qualitative approach.

Results Erectile dysfunction caused serious distress to all those men who experienced it, with marked effects on their self esteem and their relationships. Sildenafil, when it worked, caused a great improvement in wellbeing. The expectations raised by media hyperbole with the launch of sildenafil had an adverse effect on the morale of those who found it did not work. When, according to the patient, treatment did not work, the distress was severe and for many confirmed their lack of self worth.

Conclusions Further study is needed to explore the feelings of men affected by erectile dysfunction and their perception of treatment. Health professionals should be aware of the extreme distress erectile dysfunction can cause.


  • Contributors JT and DW wrote this paper jointly. JT is guarantor.

  • Competing interests JT has received an unrestricted grant from Pfizer, manufacturer of Viagra, to pay a part of thecosts of this study and has also been paid by Bayer/GSK, Lilly Icos, and Pfizer to lecture about erectile dysfunction

  • Ethical approval North and Mid Hampshire Local Research Ethics Committee (LREC) 257/B.

  • Accepted 20 February 2004
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