Popular Erectile Dysfunction Meds May Cut Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

A large new study involving more than a quarter million men with erectile dysfunction (ED) suggests that common medications for this problem might be repurposed to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

The research, published online Wednesday in the journal Neurology, showed that men who took drugs like Viagra and Cialis — which belong to a group of medicines called PDE5 inhibitors — were 18 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than men with erectile dysfunction who did not take the drugs.

“The findings cautiously allude to greater benefit from PDE5I use in individuals at greatest risk of Alzheimer’s disease — for example, men 70 years and older,” says a author of the research, Ruth Brauer, PhD, an instructor in pharmacology and epidemiology at University College London.

Men Taking ED Treatment Were Less Likely to Develop Dementia

Dr. Brauer and her collaborators based their results on analysis of electronic health records representing about 270,000 men age 40 and older who had a new diagnosis of erectile dysfunction between 2000 and 2017. Participants didn’t have cognitive impairment at the start of the study, but during an average follow-up period of five years, 1,119 were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia.

Among the participants taking erectile dysfunction drugs, 749 developed Alzheimer’s disease, which corresponds to a rate of 8.1 cases per 10,000 person-years. (Person-years represent both the number of people in the study and the amount of time each individual spends in the study.) Among those who did not take the drugs, 370 developed Alzheimer’s disease, corresponding to a rate of 9.7 cases per 10,000 person-years.

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