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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah Health Director David Sundwall has ordered a cross check of the state's sex offender registry against Medicaid recipients to see if any such offenders are being reimbursed for Viagra or similar erectile dysfunction medicines.
The issue arose after New York Comptroller Alan Hevesi announced Sunday that from 2000 through March, 198 rapists and other high-risk sex offenders in New York received Medicaid-reimbursed Viagra after their convictions.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimated Tuesday that Medicaid spends about $38 million a year on erectile dysfunction drugs, all but $2 million for Viagra.
Meanwhile, the federal government has warned states it is within their means to restrict such access, and that failure to do so could result in sanctions.
In a notice received in Utah on Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told Medicaid directors, "States are obligated to prevent fraud, abuse, gross overuse, or inappropriate or medically unnecessary care. We believe, in accordance with such provisions, the use of these drugs in the case of a sex offender is not appropriate."
Sundwall said the federal notice was "a victory of common sense."
It may be difficult for Utah to determine who should not be reimbursed for Viagra.
The New York audit dealt with "level three" sex offenders, who are those classified as likely to re-offend and have criminal histories that include rape and crimes against children.
But Utah doesn't classify the sex offenders listed on its registry, and it may include those convicted only of misdemeanor offenses, such as urinating on the side of the street in the presence of children.
David Tomb, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah's School of Medicine, said, "There is probably no overwhelming good reason to give Viagra to someone who is a dedicated sex offender. But it really depends on who you're talking about.
"You wouldn't give Viagra to Ted Bundy. But you might give it to someone who has been sexually inappropriate, maybe too aggressive, but has seen the error of his or her ways and is now dealing with impotence," he said.
Erectile dysfunction drugs aren't aphrodisiacs, he said.
"It is not something that turns a man from somebody not interested in sex to someone who can't do without sex," Tomb said.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)