In a recent article, NewsAsia quoted the Director of the Male Sexual and Reproductive Medicine Program at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, saying that the region "lagged behind by about a decade" in the treatment of ED compared to most developed countries.
Really? Or does the region just lag by a decade in Viagra sales -- because it seems like that may be how they're quantifying this claim.
The article cited cultural reasons for the ED divide: erectile dysfunction is still seen in some cultures as a sign of personal failure or weakness, and men are reluctant to discuss it with partners or doctors out of shame.
Maybe we should take this assessment with a grain of salt, given that it's coming from a Western doctor seated in front of backdrop covered with Pfizer logos.
Chances are, Asian men are seeking out treatments -- not the kind that come in prescription pill bottles, but the kind that have been used for hundreds of years nonetheless.
Asian men might also be more comfortable discussion their performance issues with an herbalist or traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner as opposed to a Western physician.
While the urology expert emphasized that it's time to start regarding ED as a health issue, rather than a performance or quality of life issue, that's exactly the stance that TCM has taken: ED is seen as a symptom of chi deficiency, usually from the kidneys, and is treated holistically.
According to TCM specialist Doctor He Yumin, "TCM remedies [for yang wei] have existed for centuries. And barring extreme cases, [it] can be easily remedied."
TCM treatments to boost libido include herbs such as ginseng, reishi mushrooms, and more exotic items like deer antler and ox, goat, and tiger penis (the last one is discouraged because it has led to poaching and the decline of endangered animals). Contrary to popular belief, rhinoceros horn is not prescribed as an aphrodisiac (it's used to treat fever, rheumatism, and other illnesses).
Dr. He also emphasizes the need to maintain a healthy lifestyle, reducing stress, eating a balanced diet, and so on.
And...perhaps this is where Viagra needs to step in. Because a greater portion of the Asian population now leads a Westernized lifestyle -- complete with its stresses and dietary pitfalls -- TCM treatments may prove less effective or viable.
Who knows, maybe in another 10 years the Pfizer/Viagra logo will be displayed as a status symbol in Singapore.