updated 6/24/2005 3:38:22 PM ET 2005-06-24T19:38:22

Impotence drugs such as Viagra would not be covered by Medicaid and Medicare, the government health programs for the poor and the aged, under new prohibitions approved by the House on Friday.

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By a 285-121 vote, the House approved an amendment by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, to stop the government from paying for the drugs. King said his amendment would save taxpayers $105 million next year alone.

King had earlier commissioned a budget study that found the government would spend more than $2 billion on such impotence drugs over the next decade. The amount spent would greatly increase as the Medicare prescription program begins next year.

“We don’t force taxpayers to pay for face lifts, weight-loss drugs, hair-growth treatment or vacations, so we should not force them to pay for sexual-performance drugs,” King said. “Medicare and Medicaid were established to provide lifesaving medication for the truly needy.”

The Senate has yet to act on the measure.

The vote came as the House debated a spending bill for health and education programs. The underlying bill already contains a ban on providing to sex offenders drugs such as Pfizer Inc.’s Viagra; Cialis, which is marketed by Eli Lilly & Co. and ICOS Corp.; and Levitra, which is sold by GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Schering-Plough Corp. in the United States, and by Bayer AG elsewhere.

That provision came in response to outcries after it was revealed that almost 800 registered sex offenders in 14 states have been receiving taxpayer-funded impotence drugs through Medicaid. That prompted other states to search their databases.

But Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn., said that the overwhelming majority of Medicaid and Medicare patients who are law-abiding deserve to receive the drugs, especially men who have lost sexual function after suffering prostate cancer and other life-threatening conditions.

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