Bill regulating erectile dysfunction medication heads to House floor

A bill that would regulate erectile dysfunction medicine in a way similar to the way the state regulates abortions is headed to the House floor.

COLUMBIA — A bill regulating men’s access to erectile dysfunction medication that was introduced to protest the way abortion is governed in South Carolina is heading to the House floor for debate.

If passed, it would create a 24-hour waiting period before drugs such as Viagra, Cialis or other sexual enhancement medicine could be picked up from the pharmacy.

It also would require patients to get counseling on celibacy as a valid life choice, mirroring requirements in South Carolina’s abortion law.

“If we are truly concerned about men’s sexual and reproductive health, at least as much as we pretend to be about women, I think my bill is a step in the right direction,” said sponsor Rep. Mia McLeod, D-Columbia. “We do play a role in women’s sexual health, and I suggest we do the same for men.”

The bill passed the Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee on Wednesday by a 10-7 margin.

McLeod said the bill is a health issue because some men who have heart conditions have died when using the drugs. “The reality is men are dying across this state and (the medicine is) not as regulated as it should be,” she said.

Committee members voted to remove a stipulation that those seeking the medications get a sworn, notarized statement from their sexual partner saying they need the medicine. Opponents of the bill said they feared it violates patient privacy.

Rep. Robert Ridgeway, R-Manning, said he thought that any evaluation or counseling a patient would be required to receive should include sexual partners as well.

“Sexual activity usually requires at least two people. And it’s a sexual therapy, so it seems that proper evaluation should involve the partners, as well, attending the evaluation to thoroughly the potential problem,” he said.

McLeod said requiring women to attend counseling sessions creates an additional burden.

“In my bill the requirements are comparable of what is already required of women who receive care,” McLeod said. “To add them would only add them again because the bill was crafted already in alignment with what is required with women.”

McLeod said she recognizes the bill likely will fail in the male-dominated Legislature. But she was glad to have sparked a discussion around what she’s called hypocrisy in legislating women’s health issues.

“One of the interesting things about serving on this committee is when it comes to issues like this, we choose to hide behind the reality that we should not get involved,” she said. “But yet we do. We get involved at every legislative opportunity when the majority brings up the abortion issue every year. A major part of what we do in this committee is we play doctor.”

Reach Maya T. Prabhu at 843-509-8933.