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Viagra Cialis and Levitra Benefit Heart and other Organs - Erectile Dysfunction ED Drugs Improve Blood Flow According to Study

June 16th 2006

Viagra Cialis and Levitra Benefit Heart and other Organs - Erectile Dysfunction ED Drugs Improve Blood Flow According to Study


Researchers say that Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs benefit other systems in the body.  This is according to Ernst R. Schwarz, M.D., Ph.D., a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center who specializes in therapies for men who suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED).  Many of his patients have heart problems, diabetes, high blood pressure or other related conditions.   

John Hopkins researchers found in a previous study that Viagra reduced the stimulatory effects of hormonal stress on the heart by half.  Schwarz says the drug, and other erectile dysfunction drugs like Levitra® (vardenafil) and Cialis® (tadalafil), benefits various organs with few side effects. 


Schwarz said, “When we look at all the different organ systems – the blood, the heart, the lungs, blood flow in the brain – there are hardly any negative side effects. In fact, just the opposite is true. There are beneficial effects for primary pulmonary hypertension, as well as for conditions such as heart failure and lack of oxygen in the heart.”

There are no real long term studies available on the products.  According to Schwarz, “The only issue is that the data we have are from relatively short-term studies. Viagra has been on the market since 1998 and the other two PDE-5 inhibitors were approved by the FDA in 2003. Therefore, we do not have multi-year follow-up studies. On the other hand, the drugs have been on the market for several years now and there have been no reports of negative long-term effects.”

Recently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a reformulation of sildenafil (Viagra) for the treatment of primary pulmonary hypertension, a disease that tends to occur in young women, causing elevated blood pressures in the lung that can lead to heart failure and early death.


There are differences in the three medications, but they all limit the activity of the enzyme phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5), which is found in tissues and vessels of the penis, blood platelets, and smooth muscle of blood vessels.  The erectile dysfunction condition is solved when they constrain the enzyme’s action which results in increased levels of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) and nitric oxide (NO), biochemicals that promote smooth muscle relaxation and increased blood flow in erectile tissue.

The researchers say that PDE-5 inhibitors can be used to treat erectile “dysfunction even for many men who also have diabetes, those who are older, and those who have co-existing ischemic heart disease.”  Since PDE-5 can smooth muscles of the systemic arteries and veins throughout the body, the use has been associated with various cardiovascular effects.

Schwarz says “The original intention was to develop PDE-5 inhibitors as a treatment for angina, chest pain that occurs when the heart is starved for oxygen.”  He added, “As such, their effects on the heart appear to be all beneficial. Nitrates and other substances commonly used to improve blood flow and oxygenation to the heart muscle have a side effect that we call the ‘steal phenomenon,’ in which blood is taken away from underperfused (flow-restricted) areas to improve blood flow in normal areas. In contrast, PDE-5 inhibitors actually improve blood flow even in areas where there is a blockage of an artery, thereby having a protective effect on the heart muscle.”


There was some concern with sight-loss (NAION or non-arteric anterior ischemic optic neuropathy) in patients taking the drugs.  But according to the researchers, after an analysis of 13,000 men and more than 35,000 patient observations, they found the “occurrence of the visual disorder to be similar to that of the general population.”

 Among other findings:

• Although the enzyme PDE-5 has been found in tissue and arteries of the brain, sildenafil does not appear to dilate cerebral arteries or have an effect on cerebral blood flow or blood flow velocity, an indication that there is no increased risk of stroke or hemorrhage.

• PDE-5 exists in blood platelets, cells that play a major role in the blood clotting process, but sildenafil appears to have no direct impact on platelet function. However, the drug’s effects have not been specifically evaluated in patients with bleeding disorders or in those taking drugs that reduce clotting.

“Experimental and human studies indicate that PDE-5 inhibitors are effective and well tolerated, and there is evidence that they are not being used to their utmost potential. We suggest that these drugs may prove beneficial in treating a wide variety of disorders,” said Schwarz, the article’s first author and a specialist in cardiology, interventional cardiology, heart failure, and transplantation. “Some studies are underway to determine the effects of long-term use of PDE-5 inhibitors, and others are warranted, especially in patients who are considered at high risk because of chronic cardiovascular disorders.”

Their findings appear in the June 8, 2006 issue of the International Journal of Impotence Research.

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