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Cost of erectile dysfunction in the UK


Bottom line

In 1997/8 the cost of erectile dysfunction treatment to the NHS £44 million for managing 114,000 men with erectile dysfunction. The bulk of this cost (90%) came from outpatient visits (65%) and GP prescribing (25%). Only one man in three with erectile dysfunction approaches the NHS for treatment.


JM Plumb & JF Guest. Annual cost of erectile dysfunction to UK society. Pharmacoeconomics 1999 16: 699-709.

One of the challenges in planning health services and managing resources is the amount of money and time required for particular diseases or disease areas. Good quality knowledge is important for this, and health economic measurement of the burden of the disease can help.


The study was developed from the perspective of the NHS, for individuals with erectile dysfunction, and from society as a whole. It used three main stratagems:

  1. An independent GP database with 0.9 million patients to identify information on men with erectile dysfunction.
  2. A panel of 22 hospital specialists and other sources to estimate secondary care resource use.
  3. A postal survey of 5000 men (randomly selected from a database of 53,000 men) who had indicated that they had erectile dysfunction in a household survey.


The GP database contained data on 1064 men with an indication of erectile dysfunction because of treatment or diagnosis code. This would be equivalent to about 80,000 in the UK as a whole, but with other referrals the total UK figure is better estimated at 114,000.

The annual NHS costs of management were estimated at £44 million, with 65% coming from outpatient visits, GP prescribing at 25%, and other reasons making up the rest (Figure 1)

Figure 1: Source of NHS burden for erectile dysfunction treatment

Other costs estimated were for patients a cost of £7 million annually on treatment and travel costs, and societal cost of £14 million annually because of days lost from work.

From the postal survey, of which a quarter of men responded, the estimate was that only about 1 in 3 men seeks help for erectile dysfunction from the NHS, giving a likely total population of men with the problem of 325,000.


This is an interesting paper. It will only ever give us an educated estimate of the costs, but that is much, much better than no information at all. One problem may be that treatments are changing fast, with new and effective treatments becoming available. The sensitivity of the costs will be through outpatient visits, with GP prescribing and consultation being less important.

For a Primary Care Organisation planning its spending, this paper would be first a useful read, and second a useful place to start. If the NHS cost is £730,000 per million population, it should be possible to estimate what the cost would be for a PCO.