Viagra May Cut Dementia Risk—But Don’t Get Too Excited

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By Simon Spichak, MSc | February twenty first, 2024

Viagra can also cut back the danger of growing Alzheimer’s or dementia. Whereas this hyperlink isn’t causative, the brand new analysis opens the door for medical trials into efficacy.

Imagine it or not, Pfizer’s drug Viagra was initially designed to deal with cardiovascular issues. Early on in medical trials, males taking the drug grew to become nervous when nurses got here into the room to examine in on them. It grew to become apparent that the drug was profitable at growing blood circulation, although not the place Pfizer supposed. Thus, the story goes, researchers by chance found that the energetic ingredient in Viagra, sildenafil, treats erectile dysfunction.

In an act of additional serendipity, researchers have now found that Viagra is related to a decrease threat of growing Alzheimer’s or dementia. A current examine printed within the journal Neurology discovered that males who have been prescribed Viagra had an 18 % decrease threat of growing Alzheimer’s. Males prescribed the drug extra typically had a fair decrease threat of growing dementia.

These findings aren’t as eye-popping as one other examine from 2021, which based on headlines from the New York Submit, “Taking Viagra cuts the danger of Alzheimer’s by as much as 69 %.” In the meantime, The Guardian proclaims: “Viagra may very well be used to deal with Alzheimer’s illness, examine finds.” Each of those headlines, nevertheless, are inflating and misrepresenting the brand new examine’s findings.

This examine checked out digital well being knowledge from 269,725 males over the course of 5 years. Half have been prescribed Viagra or comparable medication to deal with their erectile dysfunction whereas the opposite half went untreated. The boys who acquired Viagra have been much less prone to develop Alzheimer’s illness however that doesn’t imply Viagra prevents Alzheimer’s. The authors of the examine themselves concluded that extra analysis is required, which is able to embrace ladies who usually tend to develop Alzheimer’s than males, to substantiate that these medication certainly cut back the danger of Alzheimer’s.

What about earlier findings?

In analysis printed in Nature Ageing in 2021, scientists investigated a dataset of seven.23 million people via knowledge obtained from insurance coverage claims. When controlling for age, intercourse, race, and illness comorbidities, the scientific group on the Cleveland Clinic’s Genomic Drugs Institute discovered that Viagra was related to a 69-percent discount in Alzheimer’s threat after a six-year follow-up. 

Individuals taking Viagra additionally confirmed a big discount in Alzheimer’s threat in comparison with folks taking widespread blood-pressure-lowering or diabetes drugs like losartan, metformin, diltiazem, and glimepiride.

Nonetheless, when the information have been stratified by intercourse, the discount was solely vital in males (see Supplementary Desk 9) who’re each extra prone to be prescribed Viagra, and much less prone to develop Alzheimer’s. Which means that nearly all of this threat discount comes from the impact in males, whereas the outcomes didn’t discover a vital discount within the threat for females who took Viagra, regardless of that females have a larger probability of growing dementia than males.   

From the study, published in the journal Nature Aging
From the examine, printed within the journal Nature Ageing

“Notably, we discovered that sildenafil use lowered the probability of Alzheimer’s in people with coronary artery illness, hypertension, and sort 2 diabetes, all of that are comorbidities considerably related to threat of the illness, in addition to in these with out,” Cleveland Clinic computational biologist Feixiong Cheng, a senior creator of the examine, stated in a information launch.

To determine Viagra, the researchers used a computational strategy to search for medication with the potential to affect pathways implicated in Alzheimer’s. 

“We hypothesized that medication concentrating on the molecular community intersection of amyloid and tau endophenotypes ought to have the best potential for achievement,” Cheng stated, including that Viagra additionally improved cognition and reminiscence in animal fashions of Alzheimer’s illness.

Cheng’s group additionally examined the results of sildenafil on cells in a dish to see whether or not it might cut back tau, a poisonous protein that aggregates in tangles in brains with Alzheimer’s. Nonetheless, Jack Auty, lecturer within the Medical Sciences on the College of Tasmania, famous in a response to the examine that the drug was administered to those cells at a really excessive focus, “round 100 occasions that achieved by taking the tablet.”   

May Viagra deal with Alzheimer’s?

Earlier this yr, a category of blood strain drugs and a water-retention drug have been discovered to cut back the danger of cognitive decline or Alzheimer’s. Viagra isn’t the primary blood strain drug related to risk-reduction in Alzheimer’s. However that doesn’t imply it’s decreasing folks’s Alzheimer’s threat. Whereas research with giant datasets are capable of finding these sturdy hyperlinks between Viagra use and decrease threat, the research haven’t confirmed any type of cause-and-effect relationship between the 2 issues — and there are many different variables at play. The authors of the 2021 examine, together with different neuroscience researchers, level to limitations within the analysis that stops them from claiming sildenafil may very well be a preventative agent towards Alzheimer’s. 

“There are different doable explanations for these findings; for instance, we all know that mind modifications begin a long time earlier than dementia signs, and it’s doable that these early Alzheimer’s modifications cut back intercourse drive (thus folks wouldn’t ask for a prescription for erectile dysfunction),” Tara Spires-Jones, deputy director of the centre for discovery mind sciences, College of Edinburgh, wrote of the 2021 examine.

As a result of the 2021 examine’s findings solely set up an affiliation between sildenafil use and lowered incidence of Alzheimer’s illness, reasonably than a confirmed hyperlink, Cheng stated, his group is now planning a mechanistic trial and a section II randomized medical trial of sildenafil, as a way to take a look at causality and make sure the drug’s medical advantages for Alzheimer’s sufferers.

UPDATE February 21, 2024, 10:07 P.M. – This 2021 article was up to date with new context in gentle of a 2024 examine.

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