Erectile Dysfunction Drugs May Protect Against Alzheimer’s

Summary: A new study suggests a potential association between erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs and a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, though it does not establish causality.

The study tracked 269,725 men over five years, finding those prescribed ED medication had an 18% lower risk of Alzheimer’s after adjusting for other factors. While the drugs, originally developed for high blood pressure, show promise in preventing Alzheimer’s, further research is needed to confirm these findings and explore the mechanisms behind the association.

The study underscores the urgent need for new treatments to delay or prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Key Facts:

  1. Participants taking ED drugs exhibited an 8.1 per 10,000 person-years rate of Alzheimer’s development, compared to a 9.7 rate among those not on the medication.
  2. After adjustments, ED drug users had an 18% reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease compared to non-users.
  3. The study suggests a need for more research, including randomized controlled trials, to verify these results and consider their applicability to women.

Source: AAN

The drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction may also be associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published in the February 7, 2024, online issue of Neurology.

The study does not prove that erectile dysfunction drugs reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It only shows an association.

Erectile dysfunction drugs, which work by dilating blood vessels to allow more blood to flow through, were first developed to treat high blood pressure. A new study suggests that the drugs may be tied to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

This shows a man and pills.
The association was strongest in those who were issued the most prescriptions over the study period. Credit: Neuroscience News

“Although we’re making progress with the new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease that work to clear amyloid plaques in the brain for people with early stages of the disease, we desperately need treatments that can prevent or delay the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” said study author Ruth Brauer, PhD, of the University College London in the United Kingdom.

“These results are encouraging and warrant further research.”

The study involved 269,725 male participants with an average age of 59 who were newly diagnosed with erectile dysfunction. Participants did not have any memory or thinking problems at the start of the study.

They were then followed for an average of five years. The study compared the 55% of the participants who had prescriptions for erectile dysfunction drugs to the 45% who did not have prescriptions.

During the study, 1,119 people developed Alzheimer’s disease.

Among the participants taking erectile dysfunction drugs, 749 developed Alzheimer’s disease, which corresponds to a rate of 8.1 cases per 10,000 person-years. Person-years represent both the number of people in the study and the amount of time each person spends in the study.

Among those who did not take the drugs, 370 developed Alzheimer’s disease, which corresponds to a rate of 9.7 cases per 10,000 person-years.

Once researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect the rate of Alzheimer’s disease, such as age, smoking status and alcohol consumption, they found that people who took erectile dysfunction drugs were 18% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than people who did not take the drugs.

The association was strongest in those who were issued the most prescriptions over the study period.

“More research is needed to confirm these findings, learn more about the potential benefits and mechanisms of these drugs and look into the optimal dosage,” Brauer said. “A randomized, controlled trial with both male and female participants is warranted to determine whether these findings would apply to women as well.”

The study was based on prescription records. A limitation of the study is that researchers did not have information on whether participants actually filled the prescriptions and used the drugs.  

About this neuropharmacology and Alzheimer’s disease research news

Author: Renee Tessman
Source: AAN
Contact: Renee Tessman – AAN
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: The findings will appear in Neurology

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