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Hoax text forces helpline to shut
Irish Examiner 29/08/2005

By Michael Brennan

A HELPLINE for impotent men had to be shut down after a spoof text message caused it to be bombarded with calls.

The ManMatters helpline was launched three months ago with an extensive radio and newspapers advertising campaign. But it was brought to a halt by a spoof text message, which was widely circulated among mobile phone users last weekend.

The message claimed the mobile phone provider 3 were giving away 1,000 free phones to test their new network and added: "I got one a few minutes ago." When mobile phone owners rushed to dial the freephone number provided in the message the discovered instead that they had contacted the ManMatters helpline for men with erectile dysfunction.

The Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company, which had set up the helpline, said it had been shut down last Tuesday due to the volume of calls received. "We're still investigating it. We heard there was an influx of calls so at that point we decided to stop the service and just look into it further," said a spokeswoman. She was unable to say how many calls the helpline got or if it would be re-instated. "That'll be part of our looking into this to figure out how to go forward next," she said.

The ManMatters.ie website set up by the company is still online but the freephone number has been blacked out. Eli Lilly is facing a substantial phone bill because under the standard freephone arrangement, companies must pay for all the calls made to the number.

The Men's Health Forum in Ireland said it had received several calls this week from men who had not been able to get through to the number. Committee member Colin Fowler said impotence was the most difficult issue for men to talk about. "The sad part of it, certainly, is that if someone has got the courage up to do something about it, they're now led down a blind alleyway really where there's no help available at the end." He said Eli Lilly had a vested interest in the helpline because it manufactured the Cialis drug, which is used to treat impotence.