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Times of India
02 May 2010
By Malathy Iyer
Mumbai, India

When 22–year–old Karan (name changed) fell from a moving truck near Matunga five years ago, and injured his urethra–the membranous canal that carries urine–repeated infection and surgeries resulted in erectile dysfunction (ED). An implant would have set him back by at least Rs 70,000, a route that was too expensive for him. But now, the cure to erectile dysfunction need not be restricted to the rich. In the city’s public hospitals, a team of teachers are making it possible for the city’s poor to beat andropause blues, at affordable rates.

On Monday morning, Karan will get a silicone implant, all for a medical bill of Rs 10,000. “A child is the only one whom we can call our own. I want to marry in order to have a child. This will let me fulfill my dream of getting married and having a child,” says the unlettered vendor who hails form Mau district in UP.

Says Dr Sujata Patwardhan, who heads the urology department of KEM Hospital: “Penile implants are are expensive. A few American implants costs around Rs 2 lakh. We offer Indian prosthesis that have been in use since 1994 and have shown good results.” The public hospital programme only charges for the prosthesis; operation and hospitalisation charges are zero. The same prosthesis in a private hospital could cost over half a lakh.

Dr Patwardhan started the penile implant programme during her earlier stint at BMC’s other medical school, Sion Hospital, a few years ago. Between the two hospitals, her team has conducted 14 operations that have benefitted truck drivers, labourers, among others. “Soon, both hospitals will have independent implant programmes,” said Patwardhan.

In December, Kurla–based cobbler Abdul, a father of two, became KEM’s first penile implant patient. “He has been so happy with the results that he brought chappals as gifts for us,” says Dr Patwardhan.

Erectile dysfunction is usually a symptom of an underlying disease such as heart problem, diabetes or hypertension. “Considering that India has the largest number of diabetes cases, one can gauge the burden of erectile dysfunction. Roughly 10–20% of ED patients need an implant but barely 1% can afford it,” says andrologist Dr Rupin Shah, who devised the Indian penile prosthesis in 1994. He has since used it in roughly 150 patients each year.

His first patient for the desi implant was a young teacher at Bhatia Hospital who has since fathered two daughters and his oldest is an 82–year–old from Assam. “According to a study done in Gujarat, 20% of the men over 40 years had ED while 90% over 70 had ED. It is a sign of an underlying disease that is best treated at the earliest,” adds Dr Shah, who is attached to Lilavati Hospital.

Dr Shailesh Raini, urologist from Jaslok Hospital, says that the need for implants have come down since Viagra hit the shelves. “But there are those who have an irreversible ED and they need implants,” he says, adding that “they work, whether imported or Indian”.

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