Toddler takes sildenafil in order to survive

A two year old in Britain has a rare condition that causes chronic high blood pressure and must take Viagra to stay alive.

Little Oliver Sherwood suffers from pulmonary hypertension and a simple a chest infection could kill him.

The pulmonary hypertension is controlled with four doses of Viagra a day which improves his blood flow.

Viagra, more famous for treating erectile function is used in rare cases to open the veins and capillaries to help circulation.

His mother Sarah, a part-time nurse, says while Viagra is an expensive drug but it remains one of the cheapest for treating pulmonary hypertension.

Pulmonary hypertension causes the blood pressure in the arteries in the lungs to rise, straining the heart and reducing blood oxygen levels, causing breathlessness and exhaustion.

Symptoms include severe coughing and breathing problems as blood fills the lungs, constant nose bleeds, dizziness and chest pains.

The condition is very rare in children and survival rate is around five years, even with medication.

Because he gets out breath quickly Oliver only walks for a few steps each day.

His current dose of one tablet of Sildenafil crushed into four 5ml doses a day can be increased when his condition worsens, but it is unclear for how long the drugs will be effective.

Impending cuts in health expenditure raise fears his treatment may be affected along with the worry that he will need to switch to more expensive treatments called Epoprostenol and Iloprost to control his condition as he grows, which may not be funded by the Health Service.

The Government's drug rationing agency, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, is considering whether to continue prescribing the drugs and Oliver's mother has started a petition calling for the Health Service to keep funding the treatments.

A spokesman for NICE says the evidence suggests that Sildenafil is both clinically effective and cost-effective in treating pulmonary arterial hypertension.

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