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13 March 2006
Erectile Function Improved With Cholesterol Treatment
by George Atkinson

A small study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania has demonstrated that drugs known as statins, used to treat high cholesterol levels and blocked arteries, can also be of assistance for men suffering from erectile dysfunction. The study, appearing in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that statins showed promise in treating men who had shown a lack of response to erectile drugs like Viagra.

Erectile dysfunction is often a warning of serious problems that involve abnormalities in the lining of the blood vessels. Author of the study Howard Herrmann, at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, explained that it had been known for some time about the connection between erectile dysfunction and coronary disease. "The risk factors are the same for both, and thus, erectile dysfunction can be a marker for coronary disease," said Herrmann.

"Normal erections are caused when nitric oxide is made, but with endothelial dysfunction [an early indicator of atherosclerosis], the body doesn't make enough of it, causing the erectile dysfunction. Normally, Viagra prevents the breakdown of the little nitric oxide that is there, so that there is enough of it for an erection to occur."

But up to 30 percent of men are referred to as "Viagra non-responders". In these men, drugs like Viagra do not significantly help their erectile dysfunction. Herrmann's study took a number of these men and gave them either a Lipitor (a brand of statin) or a placebo. The men took Viagra again and Herrmann interviewed them to see if there was any change. "There did seem to be some improvement for those who received Lipitor versus the placebo," said Herrmann. "We theorized that if you could make the edothelium healthier through the use of statins - so that there is more nitric oxide available - you would improve the endothelial dysfunction and Viagra would work better for the patient."

The findings could also have implications for men with diabetes. "Patients with diabetes are plagued with complications of the diabetic state that involve endothelial dysfunction. This research points us in a direction that says any drug class that improves endothelial dysfunction may also be beneficial to patients with diabetes," explained co-researcher Stan Schwartz.

Herrmann said the preliminary results were promising and that statin drugs may improve endothelial dysfunction, "but the results are preliminary and warrant further testing in a larger clinical trial," he cautioned.

Based on material from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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