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Erectile Dysfunction Drugs May Be Linked To Reduced Risk Of Alzheimer’s Disease, Study Suggests

Drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction could also be linked to a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to new research from University College London. The findings have been published in the medical journal Neurology.

Erectile dysfunction drugs, including common brand name Viagra, work by dilating blood vessels to increase blood flow. They were first developed to treat high blood pressure, but based on this new study, researchers are calling for further investigation into whether they could be used to prevent Alzheimer’s disease – the most common form of dementia.

“Developing drugs for diseases like Alzheimer’s is a costly process and can take many years. Being able to repurpose drugs already licensed for other health conditions could help accelerate progress and open up new avenues to prevent or treat dementia-causing diseases,” said Dr Leah Mursaleen, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK.

The five-year study looked at medical records of nearly 270,000 men with erectile dysfunction, and found that those prescribed drugs known as PDE5Is were 18% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than people who did not take the drugs. The association was strongest in those who were issued the most prescriptions over the study period, although the researchers warned that they did not have information on whether participants actually used the drugs.

While this is an encouraging finding, there are still lots of unknowns. “More research is needed to confirm these findings, learn more about the potential benefits and mechanisms of these drugs and look into the optimal dosage,” said Ruth Brauer, PhD, of the University College London, who led the study.

“A randomised, controlled trial with both male and female participants is warranted to determine whether these findings would apply to women as well.” Brauer continued.

Dr Mursaleen also cautioned that the study only looked at a limited section of the population. “We also need to understand how this evidence might apply to more diverse populations. The only way to do this is to keep up momentum in dementia research through continued investment,” she added.