NIH DREAM study finds Viagra and Cialis do not reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias

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Media Advisory

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

What

Results from the National Institutes of Health’s Drug Repurposing for Effective Alzheimer’s Medicines (DREAM) study show that sildenafil (Viagra) and tadalafil (Cialis) may not be suitable candidates for the treatment of dementia. These findings are contrary to similar research previously reported by another group. In this new study, NIH researchers and collaborators used data from Medicare beneficiaries and determined that the drugs sildenafil and tadalafil do not reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The study was funded by the NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the results were published in brain communication. Identifying existing drugs that can also be repurposed for dementia could potentially deliver treatments to those in need faster than the traditional drug discovery process.

The NIA science team tested a class of drugs called phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) inhibitors. PDE5 inhibitors, of which sildenafil and tadalafil are examples, work by relaxing smooth muscle cells. Sildenafil and tadalafil are US Food and Drug Administration-approved treatments for erectile dysfunction and atrial pulmonary hypertension (PAH), a type of high blood pressure that affects arteries in the lungs and right side of the heart.

Scientists examined the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias using two groups of Medicare beneficiaries with PAH, those treated with sildenafil or tadalafil and those treated with another class of drugs. They also tested whether sildenafil had any effects in cell culture models of Alzheimer’s disease. The results showed no reduction in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in patients treated with PDE5 inhibitors and no evidence that PDE5 inhibitors corrected the molecular abnormalities associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

The research is part of the DREAM initiative led by Madhav Thambisetty, MD, Ph.D., chief of the NIA’s Clinical and Translational Neurosciences Section (CTNS). The DREAM collaboration, which includes researchers from the NIA, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Rutgers University, New Brunswick; and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore; is a multidisciplinary initiative to identify candidate treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias by repurposing FDA-approved drugs for other indications.

Previous results from the DREAM study have shown that certain arthritis medications can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in people with heart disease.

This research is related to the NIA AD+SARD milestone 7.B“Initiate research programs in translational bioinformatics and network pharmacology to support rational drug repositioning and combination therapy, from discovery to clinical development.”

Who

The following NIA experts are available to discuss specific findings in this paper by phone or on a virtual platform for interviews beginning Friday, September 30, 2022.

  • Madhav ThamsettyMD, D.Phil., Senior Clinical Investigator, NIA Laboratory of Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Luigi FerrucciMD, Ph.D., NIA Scientific Director

This research was supported by the NIA through its intramural research program, project ZIAAG000436.

Reference

Desai RJ, et al. No association between the initiation of phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors and the risk of incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and associated dementia: results of the DREAM (Drug Repurposing for Effective Alzheimer’s Medicines) study. common brain. 2022; doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/braincomms/fcac247

About the National Institute on Aging (NIA): The NIA leads the US federal government’s efforts to conduct and support research on aging and the health and well-being of older adults. Learn more about age-related cognitive changes and neurodegenerative diseases via the NIA Alzheimer’s and related Dementias Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center website. Visit the main NIA website for information on a range of aging topics, in English and Spanish, and stay connected.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH):The NIH, the country’s medical research agency, comprises 27 institutes and centers and is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The NIH is the primary federal agency that conducts and supports basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and studies the causes, treatments, and cures for common and rare diseases. For more information about the NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

NIH…Transforming Discovery into Health®

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