See What HealthDay Can Do For You
Contact Us

Viagra Safe for Men With Heart Failure

Study says it also improves their ability to exercise

MONDAY, Aug. 5, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Viagra can apparently do a lot more than reinvigorate a man's flagging sex life.

A new study shows the little blue pills can also restore some pep to his step when heart disease is weighing him down.

Not only is Viagra, or sildenafil, safe for men with congestive heart failure (CHF), it improves their ability to exercise, says research from Brazilian scientists. In the process, it may increase their compliance with heart failure drugs, improving their prognosis and generally improving their quality of life.

"Frequently, CHF patients, and especially their wives, are afraid their spouses will have heart failure symptoms or even death during sexual activity," study co-author Dr. Edimar Bocchi, a heart specialist at Sao Paulo University Medical School, says in a statement. "Our study shows that the benefits may outweigh harmful side effects of treatment with sildenafil. The successful treatment of [erectile dysfunction] in CHF could not only improve sexual relationships, but overall quality and success of CHF treatment."

A report on the finding appears today in the online issue of Circulation.

Although Viagra, sold by Pfizer Inc., was initially dogged by reports that it caused heart trouble in men who used it, recent research hasn't borne out such a link for the average person. However, in some men, such as those with diseased arteries or heart failure, doctors have seen some signs for concern.

So, experts say the Brazilian study is reassuring.

Between 60 percent and 70 percent of men with congestive heart failure also experience erectile dysfunction. Many believe the drugs they take to control their heart condition are at the root of their impotence, sapping their willingness to take the medication.

In the new study, Bocchi and his colleagues sought to learn if Viagra is safe for these patients. They followed 23 men, whose average age was 50, most of whom had mild to moderate congestive heart failure, as well as erection struggles, that had lasted at least four months before the start of the trial.

Bocchi and his colleagues first gave the men a single, 50 milligram dose of Viagra, and had them undergo a battery of cardiovascular tests. These included a six-minute walk, a gauge of maximum exertion, blood pressure readings and other measures.

In the second phase, the men were sent home with prescriptions for Viagra and told to take it as directed for sexual performance.

Compared with dummy tablets, Viagra improved exercise function and capacity, prolonging the time the men could work out by about 1.5 minutes, on average. It also reduced the increase in their exercising heartbeat, and lowered their resting heart rate and blood pressure.

Viagra worked as advertised in the bedroom, too, reducing impotence and improving sexual satisfaction.

The drug did lead to a few mild side effects during the study's stress testing phase, such as leg fatigue, headache, nausea and unwanted erections. However, these reactions were much less frequent in the next stage, and Bocchi's group says the drug was generally well-tolerated.

"For people worried about the use of sildenafil in high-risk cardiac conditions such as heart failure, the improvement in exercise capacity and other [measures], which were unexpected for most doctors in the first phase, was a marker that sildenafil is not dangerous for heart failure, and on the contrary may improve heart failure," Bocchi says.

Giving sildenafil to these men as part of a stress test may be a feasible tool to help doctors prescribe the drug, he adds.

What To Do

To learn more about Viagra, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or Pfizer Inc. For more on heart failure, try the American Heart Association.

SOURCES: Edimar Bocchi, M.D., Sao Paulo University Medical School, Brazil, Aug. 6, 2002, Circulation
Consumer News
undefined
undefinedundefined