August 6, 2010

Milwaukee Teachers Fighting For Taxpayer-Funded Viagra

The Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association (MTEA) union is asking a judge to force the region's school board to reinstate Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs to their taxpayer-funded health care coverage, according to a Friday report by Associated Press (AP) writer Ryan J. Foley.

According to Foley, "The filing is the latest in a two-year legal campaign in which the union has argued, so far unsuccessfully, that the board's policy of excluding erectile dysfunction drugs discriminates against male employees. The union says Viagra, Cialis, Levitra and others are necessary treatment for 'an exclusively gender-related condition.'"

"But lawyers for the school board say the drugs were excluded in 2005 to save money, and there is no discrimination because they are used primarily for recreational sex and not out of medical necessity," the AP writer adds.

Ironically, the fight for taxpayer-funded Viagra--which could cost the district an estimated $786,000--heats up again as hundreds of teachers face layoffs ordered last April by the district's outgoing superintendent. Layoff notices were delivered to 482 teachers in June, Foley reports, but 89 of them were recalled last month.

"You've got to be kidding me," State Representative Jason Fields, a Milwaukee Democrat, told the Associated Press on Friday. "The fact that is the point of contention is kind of frightening. What are our priorities? I'm all for love and peace. But almost 1 million dollars? And you go to court over this issue?"

According to Foley, "Union spokeswoman Kris Collett declined comment. But its lawyer Barbara Quindel said the case was worth fighting despite the district's grim finances. Quindel said erectile dysfunction is associated with heart disease, prostate cancer and other conditions, and the drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the American Urological Association."

Sildenafil, which is marketed as Viagra and Revatio, is used in different cases to treat erectile dysfunction and pulmonary arterial hypertension, is part of a round of medications known as phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibitors. It essentially increased blood flow, either to the penis or to the lungs, based on what it is being used to treat.


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