Updated 3 months ago

Viagra may benefit heart health for men with type 2 diabetes

Diabetes is one of many risk factors associated with poor cardiovascular health. Reports show diabetes patients are almost 50% more likely to develop heart disease. For men afflicted with type 2 diabetes and at high risk for heart attacks; however, relief might be found in an unlikely source, the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra.

Type 2 diabetes patients struggle with high blood glucose levels that can damage nerves and blood vessels, factors that could trigger heart attacks, strokes, and cardiovascular diseases. And, reports have shown “the association of erectile dysfunction with cardiovascular disease increases in the presence of type 2 diabetes.”

For this latest study, the team set out to assess how PDE5 inhibitors affect the risk of heart attack incidence and mortality among men with both erectile dysfunction and type 2 diabetes.

The researchers analyzed the 2007-2015 electronic health records of 5,956 men aged 40-89 who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Of these men, 1,359 were prescribed PDE5 inhibitors for erectile dysfunction.

Overall, the team found that men who were using PDE5 inhibitors were at 31 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality during the average 6.9 years of follow-up.

Study authors expressed that the “strong relationship between PDE5 inhibitor use and lower mortality in type 2 diabetes” warrants immediate investigation because of the potential for clinical benefits beyond erectile dysfunction treatment.

Our laboratory work was pointing us towards the potential benefits of these erectile dysfunction treatments on the heart so it's reassuring to learn that they could reduce heart attack risk and improve heart attack survival in people with diabetes. Having diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease so any treatments that could reduce that risk are urgently needed. Erectile dysfunction treatments like Viagra are already licensed for use so, if clinical trials provide further evidence of a lifesaving benefit, it might be possible to start treating people with this drug in the not too distant future," says Professor Andrew Trafford, who worked on this research funded by the BHF at the University of Manchester.

"Viagra was originally being developed as a cardiovascular treatment in the UK. Researchers were looking at its use in people with high blood pressure and angina. Ultimately the drug, of course, came to prominence in treating erectile dysfunction so it's promising to see we may have rediscovered the drug's potential in fighting heart disease. Research is now needed to see whether the findings seen in health records are also found in the tightly controlled setting of a clinical trial. And we look forward to learning exactly how the drug acts on the heart through Professor Trafford and his colleague's studies," says Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the BHF.

Prepared by