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The first death in Japan of a person known to have used the blockbuster anti-impotence drug Viagra occurred in early July, the Health and Welfare Ministry said Wednesday.

However, the ministry said it has not found a relationship between the drug and the death of the man, who was in his 60s, though he died just hours after using it.

The deaths of about 30 Viagra users have been reported so far in the U.S., and the ministry has been warning users of the drug about possible risks.

Viagra is produced by Pfizer Inc. of the United States and cannot be legally sold in Japan. Although Viagra has not yet cleared the Japanese government’s clinical testing and approval process, it has already been marketed widely across the country through individual importers, medical sources said.

It has been reported that the use of the drug poses a threat to those with high blood pressure and other heart-related illnesses.

According to the ministry, the man had been administered nitroglycerin to treat high blood pressure, diabetes and arrhythmia.

He later took a Viagra tablet given to him by a friend and engaged in sexual intercourse, the ministry said. Family members detected something was wrong with him about two hours and 20 minutes after he took the pill and called an ambulance.

By the time he arrived at the hospital, his heart and lungs had already stopped, and he was pronounced dead about three hours and 30 minutes after taking the drug, the ministry said.

Although a doctor’s prescription is required to use Viagra in the U.S., the drug has become a major hit, registering some $400 million in sales since hitting the market last April. The drug has such side effects as reduced blood pressure, and its warning label tells those with heart diseases not to take the drug.

Medical critic Hajime Mizuno said the drug cannot be blamed for the death of the Japanese man because Pfizer has disclosed data on its side effects and warned that it is potentially life-threatening.

“In general, medicine that is said to work well usually has strong side effects, and people must be aware of this,” he said. Mizuno said more deaths could occur as people acquire Viagra through the Internet and through parallel imports.

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