BHF response to research finding that erectile dysfunction drugs are beneficial after heart attack

9 March 2017        

Category: BHF Comment

Assorted tablets in a person

Men who are prescribed phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) inhibitors, such as Viagra, in the years following a heart attack have a substantially lower risk of dying or being hospitalised for heart failure.

This study, which found that erectile dysfunction drugs may be beneficial for heart attack survivors, comes from a study scheduled to be presented at the upcoming American College of Cardiology’s 66th Annual Scientific Session from the 17-19th March. 

With more people than ever surviving heart attacks, and with the condition being one of the most common causes of heart failure, this finding could be instrumental in finding new ways to treat a condition that currently has no cure. 

The Swedish study retrospectively tracked more than 43,000 men for an average of 3.3 years and found that men prescribed PDE5 inhibitors were 33 percent less likely to die from any cause after their first heart attack. They were also 40 percent less likely to be hospitalised for heart failure compared to those not taking any erectile dysfunction medication.

However, more research is needed to confirm this finding and it is impossible to ascertain direct cause and effect at this stage. 

What did we say?

Professor Metin Avkiran, our Associate Medical Director said: “There are two striking aspects to the findings of this study. Contrary to what has previously been reported in healthy men, erectile dysfunction appears to be associated with a reduced risk of death or hospitalization for heart failure in patients who have had a heart attack. 

“In those patients the use of Viagra-like drugs also seems to reduce the risk of death. This is particularly interesting since this class of drug, known as a PDE5 inhibitor, acts on blood vessels and was initially developed for the treatment of cardiovascular disease, before it was found to have benefits in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Nevertheless, because of the way this study was done, it is not possible to conclude that the drug, rather than the patient’s lifestyle, was the cause of the reduced risk of death.  

“The general advice to patients with cardiovascular disease and erectile dysfunction remains that they should discuss with their GP the risks and benefits using PDE5 inhibitors.”