Erectile Dysfunction Drugs Like Viagra May Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk, Study Finds

Published 14 days ago
By Forbes | Arianna Johnson
Two blue pills viagra in male hand. Medicine concept of men health, medication for erection, treatment of erectile dysfunction
(Source: Getty Images)

TOPLINE

Erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a Wednesday study found, a breakthrough researchers say is needed to help prevent and delay Alzheimer’s diagnoses.

KEY FACTS

Participants who were prescribed erectile dysfunction drugs were 18% less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s compared to participants who weren’t, according to a study published Wednesday in the American Academy of Neurology’s journal Neurology.

The study followed 269,725 men with an average age of 59 for five years who had no previous diagnosis of dementia or cognitive confusion; 55% of the participants were prescribed erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra and Cialis, while 45% weren’t.

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The types of drugs used in the study are called phosphodiesterase type-5 inhibitors (PDE5Is), which are a class of drugs used to treat hypertension and erectile dysfunction.

The researchers believe PDE5Is reduce Alzheimer’s risk because some forms of these drugs can improve brain health by increasing blood flow to the brain and reducing the amount of energy neurons consumed in the brain.

A previous 2021 study—backed by the National Institute of Aging—looked at insurance claim data and found Viagra was associated with a 69% lower risk of Alzheimer’s developing in older men with diabetes or high blood pressure.

CRUCIAL QUOTE

“Although we’re making progress with the new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease that work… for people with early stages of the disease, we desperately need treatments that can prevent or delay the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” study author and lecturer at the University College London Ruth Brauer said in a statement.

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CONTRA

A 2022 National Institute of Health-backed study used insurance claim data over a span of five months to follow two groups of people with a form of hypertension: those treated with Viagra and Cialis, and those treated with a different type of hypertension drug. The study’s results found there was not a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related illnesses in either group. The reason the NIH study results differ could be because “five months may have been too short for the outcome of interest to occur,” the researchers of the Neurology study said in a statement.

BIG NUMBER

6.7 million. That’s how many Americans aged 65 years or older had Alzheimer’s in 2023, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Around one in nine people aged 65 and older have Alzheimer’s.

KEY BACKGROUND

There isn’t a cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are several FDA-approved treatments for early- and middle-stage Alzheimer’s like the drugs lecanemab and aducanumab. Other drugs that treat different illnesses have been found to potentially reduce Alzheimer’s risk. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis taking a certain type of arthritis drug called biologics or targeted synthetic DMARDs developed dementia 19% less than those taking another type of arthritis drug, according to a 2022 study. Lifetime use of oral birth control is associated with a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s, while patients with depression who took postmenopausal therapy had a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, a separate 2022 study found.

TANGENT

Nose-picking may lead to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s, according to an October study. Chronic nose-picking introduces germs and other pathogens into the nose via dirty fingers. Beta-amyloid, a protein believed to be a cause of Alzheimer’s, is produced in the brain in response to nose-picking introducing these pathogens into the nose, according to the study. The researchers encouraged “incurable nose-picker[s]” to wash their hands frequently, citing the Covid pandemic as an example of how infection can spread due to dirty hands touching surfaces. “It is essential to note that the temporary relief obtained from nose picking is not a substitute for proper nasal hygiene, which involves regular cleaning and maintenance of the nasal passages through gentle methods such as saline nasal rinses or blowing the nose,” the study said.

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