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Viagra: get it now!

For a short time the anti-impotence drugs Viagra and Cialis are available at a subsidised rate, despite protests from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Board (Läkemedelsförmånsnämnden or LFN). Following the outcome of a case brought by Pfizer to have the drugs reintroduced into the package of subsidised medicines, the County Court decided that for certain groups of men with erectile problems the drug should be made available again at the cheaper rate.

LFN appealed immediately but until the appeal is heard Viagra and Cialis will be available at the lower, subsidised rate.

That’s good news for Magnus Sjöblom who told Aftonbladet that he’s had to spend 18,000 crowns out of his own pocket on Viagra.

“I’ve remarried now, and without Viagra that would not have been possible,” he told the paper. “Sexuality is a human right”.

The battle for cheap impotence drugs has been raging in Sweden for the last five years. Viagra and Cialis, were taken out of the subsidised drug package by the government in 2001 “for cost reasons”. According to the Association of County Councils, Viagra was costing the Swedish tax payer some 15 million crowns per month following its introduction in 1998.

It was still possible to ask for special dispensation up until October 2002, but when that loophole was closed the sales of the impotence drug flopped, and Pfizer went to court to have it returned to the package.

LFN argued that erectile problems are less serious than other illnesses and that they were hard to diagnose anyway. But the County Court’s decision will allow men whose potency dysfunction is caused by illnesses such as diabetes or back problems to be covered by the high cost protection law – meaning that in these cases the maximum annual cost would never exceed 1800 crowns.

If you want to exploit the new loophole, you’ll have stock up on Viagra now – the appeal will be heard within the next fourteen days, after which the price could go straight up again.

Kelloggs was forced to take out a full-page ad in the evening papers this week to counter claims about the dangers of eating breakfast cereals enriched by vitamins and minerals. The scare began with the Danish Food Agency’s decision to stop the sale of breakfast cereals, arguing that an overdose of minerals and vitamins could damage kidneys and liver, and that pregnant women who eat too much cereal could damage their unborn child.

Young children were also in danger, according to the Danish Food Agency. However, its Swedish equivalent has stated that it does not share the Danish view and that it believes that eating cereals carries no risks.

Nevertheless, there was more trouble to come for Kelloggs. On Wednesday the company was forced to recall incorrectly-marked packets of its ‘Extra Fruit’ cereal. A variety of the product contains hazelnut and chocolate but these were not listed in the ingredients.

“The cereal can therefore be a deadly hazard for anyone with a nut allergy,” Expressen pointed out, before noting that 600 kg of the cereal was recalled.

Finally, researchers have discovered that every third Swede carries the ApoE4 gene that increases the risk for dementia. At the same time, the bearer of this gene seems extra sensitive to alcohol.

“We have found that the risk for Alzheimers increases the more you drink”, said researcher Miia Kivipelto to Aftonbladet. Carriers of the gene have double the risk of suffering dementia compared to others, and in combination with alcohol the risk increases sevenfold.

Lysanne Sizoo

Lysanne Sizoo is a certified Counsellor, specialising in bereavement, fertility and cultural assimilation issues. She also runs a support and discussion group for English speaking women. You can contact her on [email protected], or 08 717 3769. More information on www.sizoo.nu.

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The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.

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