A patients' lobby group says it is time for the Government to fund treatment of men left with erection problems caused by prostate cancer treatment.

Prostate Cancer Foundation chief executive Graeme Woodside said surgery and radiation to treat prostate cancer causes men "high levels of erectile dysfunction, at least short term, sometimes long term and sometimes permanently".

"They invariably end up with a level of incontinence, usually relatively short term, up to three months, and it improves. In some it doesn't improve.

"There's not too bad treatment for incontinence, funded treatment. For erectile dysfunction, guys are pretty much left on their own.


"Particularly for guys in their 40s, 50s and 60s it's a pretty devastating issue that affects relationships and all sorts of things."

Prices vary for Viagra and other pills containing sildenafil; one online pharmacy charges $58 for 12 and Woodside says erection devices can cost from $200 and an implant $17,000 plus the cost of fitting it.

He drew a comparison with state-funded breast reconstruction following mastectomy in women with breast cancer.

"We applaud what breast cancer [advocacy] has managed to achieve - a screening programme, treatment, reconstruction, but there is a parallel with breast reconstruction, which is essentially cosmetic."

"We would never want to denigrate the value of that, but if you look at a parallel the guy whose sexuality is diminished or gone completely - that is, we think, a comparable issue to be dealt with."

The Foundation will raise the matter with Pharmac and the Health Ministry

Pharmac funds sildenafil for certain disorders involving blood flow, but not for erectile dysfunction.

The state agency's director of operations, Sarah Fitt, said it had never received a funding application for an erectile dysfunction drug for this use. However, anyone can make a funding application, through the Pharmac website.

It's quite a different experience but I'm still able to have a successful sex-life with my wife


"Should we receive a funding application for an erectile dysfunction drug for this use, we would assess and prioritise it in the same way as any other medicine."

Forty-year-old Porirua training consultant Danny Bedingfield who had his prostate gland removed by robotic surgery when he was 37 supports Woodside's push for state-funding.

Bedingfield's diagnosis came nine months after his father died from the disease. A married father of one child, he said the "reasonably aggressive" tumour had been detected at an early stage of its development.

He experienced erectile dysfunction following the operation and was prescribed Viagra but didn't find it helpful.

He is now 90 per cent back to normal although he experiences moderate pain at orgasm and maintaining an erection can be painful too. Another change is that loss of the prostate means the end of ejaculation.

"It's quite a different experience but I'm still able to have a successful sex life with my wife."

He is glad he had prostate surgery, but at the time the decision was in the balance.

"I was very worried about erectile dysfunction, to the point of thinking about not having the operation because that was such a big deal to me."