A new report appearing in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine claims that men over 40 who use erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs are more likely to have sexually transmitted diseases. The researchers behind the report say that doctors who prescribe ED drugs should be sure to discuss the importance of safer sex practices, particularly with older patients.
"Anyone who does not practice safer sex, no matter their age, can contract an STD," says Anupam B. Jena (Massachusetts General Hospital), the study's lead author. "Even though STDs are quite rare among older men - on the order of 1 per 1,000 individuals - we found that STD rates in men who used ED drugs were two to three times higher, both before and after they filled their first prescription."
ED drugs have become popular since sildenafil (Viagra) was first introduced in 1998. As early as 2002 it was estimated that up to 20 percent of American men over 40 had tried an ED drug. Studies have shown that rates of STDs are rising in older individuals and that people over 50 are much less likely than younger men to use condoms during sex. Worryingly, a survey of doctors found that they rarely, if ever, discussed reducing sexual risk factors with middle aged or older patients.
Small studies of men who have sex with men had associated the use of ED drugs with higher-risk behaviors and increased rates of STDs. But no previous study had examined the relationship between ED drugs and STD risk in a large, representative sample of privately insured older men. For the current study, the researchers examined health insurance claims records covering 1997 though 2006 from 44 large U.S. employers.
Although the data gathered for the study could not indicate whether ED drug use itself increased STD risk, the authors are investigating that question in a further study. "Health care providers need to recognize that their older adult patients who are on ED drugs are already at a higher risk of having or acquiring an STD," says co-researcher Dana Goldman (University of Southern California). "Both the physicians who prescribe these drugs and the pharmacists who fill those prescriptions should counsel all patients on the importance of safer sexual practices."
STDs rife amongst older swingers
Syphilis infections still climbing
Middle-aged folks neglecting safe sex
Big increase in hetero anal sex worries health experts
STDs Skyrocketing In Elderly
Source: Massachusetts General Hospital