Viagra linked to much lower risk of death in men, but questions remain: ScienceAlert

Men using Viagra for erectile dysfunction could save themselves from an early death, according to the results of a recently published observational study.

Funded by the pharmaceutical company Sanofi, the study looked back at 14 years of medical records from more than 23,000 American men who had been prescribed a phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor (PDE-5i), such as the common erectile dysfunction medication Viagra.

An analysis compared health data with that in the records of 48,000 men who were not given a similar prescription.

Since Sanofi sells their proprietary PDE-5i, called avanafil (known commercially as Stendra), the results aren’t exactly free of conflicts of interest. But that doesn’t mean they should just be rejected.

The men in the study who took a PDE-5i were found to be 39 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those who didn’t have a prescription. They were also 25 percent less likely to die from any cause, and 13 percent less likely to have a cardiac event, such as a heart attack or stroke.

The men who took a higher cumulative dose of a PDE-5i were better protected against heart disease than the men who took a lower dose.

The study controlled for age, medications, medical history and smoking status. However, because it’s a simple retrospective look at a population already taking the drug, the study couldn’t prove causation.

Men who choose to take drugs like Viagra may happen to be healthier to begin with. Or their ability to engage in sexual activity after treatment may have produced the heart health benefits seen in the study, as opposed to a more direct influence from the drug, the researchers said.

Nevertheless, the study points to the potential positive impact of PDE-5i on heart health in the general male population.

“Phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors are not only safe, but may also have important cardioprotective properties,” the researchers said. “[These findings] suggest an urgent need for an appropriately powered, prospective randomized placebo-controlled trial.”

Cardiologist Deepak Bhatt, the director of Mount Sinai Heart in New York, said the study was interesting, but that “a randomized clinical trial in which many patients with cardiovascular disease were randomized to either Viagra or a placebo (a ‘blank’) was needed. would be to know if there are real cardiovascular benefits to the drug”.

“While it is possible that Viagra has some cardiovascular benefits, that would require further research, and this current study does not prove it,” he said. ScienceAlert.

“On the contrary, it is more likely that the patients in this study who were placed on Viagra by their physician were less likely to have heart disease because if patients have severe heart disease, they are often not placed on Viagra in the first place.” he said.

“The study is observational, so it won’t have the impact that a clinical trial would have,” Nial Wheate, a pharmaceutical chemist at the University of Sydney in Australia, told ScienceAlert.

Viagra was also found to be an effective treatment for pulmonary arterial hypertension and was approved by the FDA in 2005 for this indication under the brand name Revatio. (In people with this condition, the arteries between the heart and lungs become clogged, raising blood pressure and putting more stress on the right side of the heart.)

“We’ve known about the cardiovascular benefits of these types of drugs for quite some time,” Wheate said. “That it has benefits related to your heart is not surprising at all. Good, but not surprising.”

Drug companies often fund studies “remotely,” such as Sanofi’s involvement in this case, Professor Wheate said. “I am convinced that the results are real,” he said.

The next step would be to conduct a large clinical trial in a controlled environment to confirm the result, he said.

This research has been published in Journal of Sexual Medicine.

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