Does Viagra reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s?

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A new study examines whether Viagra could influence Alzheimer’s disease. Simon Dawson / Bloomberg via Getty Images
  • Using genetic and other biological data, researchers recently concluded that Viagra (sildenafil) may influence Alzheimer’s disease.
  • When they analyzed insurance claims for prescriptions, they found that sildenafil certificates were associated with a 69% reduction in Alzheimer’s risk among claimants.
  • Laboratory tests on nerve cells from people with Alzheimer’s disease have supported the idea that sildenafil can treat the disease.
  • However, the researchers stress that only clinical trials can provide definitive proof that sildenafil is an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

Doctors prescribe sildenafil – known by its brand name, Viagra – to treat erectile dysfunction and pulmonary arterial hypertension, which refers to high blood pressure in the lungs.

However, several studies in mice, and some pilot studies in humans, have suggested that sildenafil may also treat Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study has now provided biological and population-based evidence to support the idea that the drug can help prevent and treat the disease.

“Developing drugs for diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, which attack the brain, is an expensive process and can take many years,” said Dr. Susan Kohlhaas, Ph.D., director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK to United Kingdom. Medical News Today.

“Being able to reuse a drug that is already licensed for other health concerns could help speed up the drug discovery process and put life-changing dementia treatments in place sooner,” she said. .

The study, led by the Genomic Medicine Institute at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, OH, appears in Natural aging.

In Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, the death of brain cells leads to progressive memory loss and cognitive decline.

Due to our aging population, scientists predict that by 2050, 13.8 million people in the United States alone will have Alzheimer’s disease.

The main punches disease in the brain are plaques of a protein called beta-amyloid and fibrous tangles of tau, another protein.

So far, however, clinical trials of drugs and vaccines targeting the two proteins have encountered disappointing results.

A complex interplay of genes and environmental factors causes Alzheimer’s disease.

To predict which existing drugs could provide new treatments, the researchers used a computer model that integrates data on the genetics of the disease and the involved networks of metabolic pathways.

In particular, they focused on the interactions between proteins in networks that play a role in the creation of both beta-amyloid and tau.

Then, they generated “network proximity measures” for more than 1,600 approved drugs based on their degree of interaction with these Alzheimer’s disease networks.

This allowed scientists to narrow the field to 66 drugs that could potentially treat the disease. Given other considerations, such as the promising results of experiments in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease, sildenafil emerged as the most promising candidate.

The researchers deepened their research by analyzing the prescription insurance claims of 7.23 million people in the United States.

Overall, they found that applicants who were prescribed sildenafil had a 69% reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease over the next 6 years.

The association remained statistically significant after accounting for other factors that influence Alzheimer’s risk, such as gender, ethnicity, and other medical conditions. These conditions included type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and mild cognitive impairment.

Finally, to confirm that sildenafil can affect the underlying mechanism of Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers tested the drug in the lab on nerve cells from people with the disease.

They found that sildenafil promotes the growth of new nerve projections and decreases the buildup of tau in cells.

Researchers often use tau as a biomarker to assess disease progression in animal models and humans.

The authors caution that their study design cannot demonstrate a causal relationship between the use of a particular drug and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

They say there may be hidden confounding factors that influence not only Alzheimer’s risk, but the likelihood of sildenafil use as well.

Possible confounding factors, which insurance data do not include, include education level and socioeconomic status.

However, there was no significant difference in the total annual prescription costs between users and non-users of sildenafil, suggesting that the two groups did not differ in terms of wealth.

The authors believe their lab results support the conclusion that sildenafil is a potential treatment.

“[W]We do not believe that socioeconomic status will determine our results, as we then validated our results in [Alzheimer’s] patient derivative [nerve cell] models too, ”said lead author Feixiong Cheng, Ph.D. MNT.

The authors further note that the insurance data did not include genetic information, for example whether applicants had a particular version of the apolipoprotein E gene, which increases the risk of Alzheimer’s and affects patients’ responses to treatment.

Additionally, medical professionals predominantly prescribe sildenafil for men, so the study could not determine any possible benefits in women regarding Alzheimer’s risk.

“Although researchers have looked at the effect of sildenafil on women, there is not enough information to be able to draw precise conclusions about its effects in women, who account for the majority of Alzheimer’s cases in the world. world, ”said Dr. Kohlhaas.

“It is important to note that this research does not prove that sildenafil is responsible for reducing the risk of dementia or that it slows or stops the disease,” she said.

“The only way to test this would be in a large-scale clinical trial measuring the effects of sildenafil against the usual standard of care. “

The authors conclude:

“Overall, the association between the use of sildenafil and the decrease in the incidence of [Alzheimer’s disease] does not establish causation or its direction, and our results, therefore, warrant rigorous clinical trials of the efficacy of sildenafil treatment in patients with [Alzheimer’s disease], including both sexes and placebo controlled. “

“We are planning a mechanistic trial and a phase 2 biomarker-guided trial in the next step to verify further [the] early clinical benefit of sildenafil [Alzheimer’s disease] patients, ”said Dr Cheng MNT.


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