Viagra Linked With Reduced Heart Attack Risk and Improved Heart Attack Survival

Researchers hope their studies will lead to clinical trials in the near future

Men with type-2 diabetes taking treatments for erectile dysfunction could be reducing their risk of a heart attack and improving their chances of surviving a heart attack, according to a study funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and the United Kingdom National Institute for Health Research.

Researchers at the University of Manchester studied the electronic health records between January 2007 and May 2015 of almost 6,000 men with type-2 diabetes between the ages of 40 and 89 years old.

Their findings, published in the BMJ journal Heart, provide strong evidence that erectile dysfunction treatments that block an enzyme called PDE5 act to reduce risk of death in type-2 diabetes, according to the researchers. Viagra is one example of an erectile dysfunction treatment that works by blocking the PDE5 enzyme.

Compared with nonusers, the 1,359 men who were prescribed PDE5-inhibiting drugs experienced a lower percentage of deaths during follow-up (19.1% versus 23.8%) and a lower risk of death (31%) by any cause. Risk of death was still reduced after adjusting for age and other factors that affect heart disease risk. They also found that there were significantly fewer heart attacks in people taking erectile dysfunction treatment over the study period. And in a subgroup of patients who had a history of heart attack or had one during the study period, the drugs were associated with significantly lower risk of death.

In the United Kingdom, 3.5 million adults have been diagnosed with diabetes and 90% of those people have type-2. Having diabetes can double the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

One of the Manchester researchers, BHF Senior Research Fellow Professor Andrew Trafford, has already shown in the lab that heart cells from a failing heart survive longer when they receive this treatment. The team is now looking to confirm whether the same drugs can also prevent abnormal heart rhythms, which are responsible for killing up to half of heart failure patients. They hope that these two laboratory studies in animals will then lead to clinical trials in people with heart failure.

“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,” Dr. Trafford said. “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.”

Source: University of Manchester; November 18, 2016.