Impotence Among Heart Patients Not the Fault of Meds, Study Finds

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WEDNESDAY, Feb. 7, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Worried that the drugs you're taking to lower cholesterol or blood pressure might make you more apt to develop erectile dysfunction?

That's not likely, a new Canadian study suggests.

The study involved about 2,000 men who were taking a cholesterol-lowering statin drug, a blood pressure-lowering medication, or both. The statin the men took was Crestor (rosuvastatin), and the blood pressure drug was a combination of candesartan and hydrochlorothiazide, sold in the United States as Atacand/HCT. Comparison groups took placebos.

The nearly six-year study found no link between the drugs and the development of erectile dysfunction.

One physician who reviewed the findings said there's a valuable lesson here for doctors and patients.

Dr. Benjamin Hirsh noted that nearly 58 percent of male heart patients in the study had already complained of impotence before they started the drug trial.

"Therefore, asking patients about erectile dysfunction symptoms prior to starting certain medications reduces the likelihood of subsequently attributing symptoms of erectile dysfunction to a new medication," said Hirsh. He directs preventive cardiology at Northwell Health's Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y.

The new study was led by Dr. Philip Joseph, assistant professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He said that prior studies had pointed to high blood pressure and high cholesterol as being tied to erectile dysfunction, but there's been much less study into whether heart medicines affected that risk -- either for good or bad.

Now, Joseph said, the new study suggests that heart drugs don't raise the risk for impotence, and "lowering these critically important cardiac risk factors using these medications [also] has little impact on changes in erectile function."

The findings were published in the January issue of the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.

Joseph believes the findings should provide clarity for heart patients dealing with erectile dysfunction.

"Men who develop erectile dysfunction while on such medications commonly attribute their symptoms to the medications," Joseph said in a journal news release. "Our findings suggest that these two medications do not negatively impact erectile function, which should be reassuring to men who are taking them."

Dr. Nachum Katlowitz directs urology at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City. Reviewing the study, he said that one important -- and perhaps disheartening -- finding was that drugs used to improve heart health, "did not restore penile function" for men with erectile dysfunction.

That means doctors may "need to make changes earlier" to help these men, Katlowitz said. "This perhaps might be at the first sign of erectile dysfunction, hoping to prevent progression and if possible reverse any 'non-permanent' changes," he said.

More study into how effective this type of earlier intervention might be would be valuable, he said.

The new research received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and drug maker AstraZeneca.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on erectile dysfunction.

SOURCES: Benjamin J. Hirsh, M.D., director, preventive cardiology, Northwell Health's Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital, Manhasset, N.Y.; Nachum Katlowitz, M.D., director of urology, Staten Island University Hospital, New York City; Canadian Journal of Cardiology, news release, Jan. 29, 2018

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