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Men's Health

Erectile Dysfunction Drugs Are Safe, Possibly Beneficial After Heart Attack

Men who filled prescriptions for erectile dysfunction drugs in the years following a heart attack had a substantially lower risk of dying or being hospitalized for heart failure than men who did not use these drugs, according to a study presentED at the American College of Cardiology’s 66th Annual Scientific Session IN 2017.

A release from the American College of Cardiology notes that the study, which retrospectively tracked more than 43,000 men for an average of 3.3 years, found that men prescribed phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) inhibitors–the type of erectile dysfunction drug sold under the names Viagra, Levitra, Cialis and others–after their first heart attack were 33 percent less likely to die from any cause. No survival benefit was seen among men taking alprostadil, another type of erectile dysfunction drug that works through a different mechanism.

The release quotes Daniel Peter Andersson, MD, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and the study’s lead author, as saying, “If you have an active sex life after a heart attack, it is probably safe to use PDE5 inhibitors. This type of erectile dysfunction treatment is beneficial in terms of prognosis, and having an active sex life seems to be a marker for a decreased risk of death.”

The research is based on a Swedish national database of health records that includes all hospitals in Sweden. Researchers analyzed the records of men age 80 years or younger who were hospitalized for a first heart attack between 2007 and 2013. Tracking the men for an average of 3.3 years following this first heart attack, they compared outcomes among those who subsequently filled a prescription for a PDE5 inhibitor or alprostadil to those who did not. Overall just over 7 percent of men were prescribed an erectile dysfunction drug, 92 percent of whom were prescribed a PDE5 inhibitor and 8 percent of whom were prescribed alprostadil.

After adjusting for cardiovascular risk factors including diabetes, heart failure and stroke, those taking PDE5 inhibitors were found to be markedly less likely to die than those taking alprostadil or no erectile dysfunction drugs. Filling more prescriptions for PDE5 inhibitors appeared to be associated with a greater benefit, although Andersson said that trend should be interpreted with caution because the study was not large enough for a definitive dose-response analysis.

In addition to a decreased mortality, men using PDE5 inhibitors or alprostadil were 40 percent less likely to be hospitalized for heart failure compared to those not taking any erectile dysfunction drugs.

Although the results provide evidence that PDE5 inhibitors may benefit heart health, the retrospective study design makes it impossible to ascertain direct cause and effect, Andersson noted. It is possible that using erectile dysfunction drugs simply indicates a more active sex life, which could itself contribute to, or be a marker of, a heart-healthy lifestyle overall.