Nurse says Viagra saved her from severe Covid-19 coronavirus infection

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It may cause you to get up and take notice. A nurse in the UK has reportedly credited Viagra with saving her from a serious and potentially fatal Covid-19. Yes, this Viagra, the one generally used for erectile dysfunction. Such news has already helped the word “Viagra” trending on Twitter with tweets such as the following from Robert M. Wachter, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) :

Indeed, Dr Wachter, anything is possible. But is there any hard evidence that Viagra, otherwise known as sildenafil, can be used as a treatment for severe Covid-19?

Wachter’s tweet included an article by The New York Post by Yaron Steinbuch. Steinbuch relayed the story of Monica Almeida, a 37-year-old nurse who tested positive for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in October. Almeida’s condition deteriorated to the point that she was admitted to a hospital intensive care unit and placed in a induced coma on November 16. When things looked bleak, his doctors would then have tried the little blue pill. Sometime after, Almeida, who was apparently fully vaccinated before the infection, came out of her coma on December 14 and returned home on Christmas Eve.

The New York Post the story included a quote from Almeida recounting The sun, “It was definitely Viagra that saved me. In less than 48 hours, it opened my airwaves and my lungs started to respond. She added, “If you think about how the medicine works, it dilates your blood vessels. I have asthma and my air bags needed a little help.

Take a wild little blue pill to guess who else has reported this case. Yes, Fox news host Tucker Carlson covered this story on his show “Tucker Carlson Tonightas well as a headline “this exaggerates nothing” which read “Little blue miracle” hovering over his left shoulder:

As you can see, in the segment, Carlson said, “Who thought Viagra would save us from the pandemic?” Marc Siegel, MD, Fox news Medical Contributor, who joined Carlson on the show, concluded the segment by saying, “I’m getting ready to try it.” Alright, maybe that last statement was TMI. Either way, did Carlson and Siegel seem a little too happy to see this news about Viagra? Before you make 2022 an “erection” year or even a mid-term “erection” year, take a closer look at what has been specifically said about the segment.

Siegel described how Viagra can “improve blood flow to the lungs. It improves oxygen in the lungs. He went on to say that “it does something called nitric oxide. Now nitric oxide is something the Covid virus is going down and Viagra is going up. He first cited a Chilean study on the use of Viagra, then quickly moved on to cite several studies which would have shown that “if you inhale nitric oxide your lungs are doing much better with Covid” . He didn’t really provide details about the studies such as journal publications that might have described them, study designs, number of people in each study, or study limitations. Nonetheless, he concluded that “I think this is the start of something and more studies are going on, and I think it’s a potential treatment.”

Wow. Potential treatment? Isn’t that a premature declaration? As you know (or maybe you don’t), anything that is premature can leave a messy situation and people quite confused. Premature declarations have been a problem throughout the pandemic. For example, various people prematurely declared drugs such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin to be “treatments” for Covid-19 long before enough studies were completed. And apparently, premature statements can also be a groin or growing problem with Viagra:

So you have to be very careful not to use the “t” word until there is enough scientific evidence.

The risk is that people will somehow believe that such unproven ‘treatments’ can be taken in place of vaccination or other evidence-based Covid-19 precautions such as wearing ‘a face mask, as this tweet warned:

Or leave the mistaken impression that there is a new “cure” for Covid-19:

One can imagine how some men might be more willing to pound Viagra, so to speak, than to wear face masks. Taking Viagra regularly is not like eating watermelon on a regular basis. It can have side effects such as dizziness, headaches, flushing, upset stomach, and vision problems and be especially problematic for those with existing heart problems. Also, you thought the nose sticking out of face masks was a problem. Imagine what could happen with Viagra.

So what about that study from Chile that Siegel mentioned? Well it was taken to Almirante Nef Naval Hospital and Andres Bello University in Chile and featured in a publication in the journal Critical care. The trial included 40 patients who were diagnosed with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection and who had abnormalities in the blood flow to their lungs. Half of these study participants (20 patients) received sildenafil, 25 mg orally three times a day for seven days. The other half received placebo capsules in the same way. The median age of study participants was 57 years old. The majority (33 patients) were male.

The research team did not find any significant differences in subsequent patterns of blood and oxygen flow in the lungs of those who received sildenafil compared to those who received the placebo. However, four of the patients in the placebo group ultimately required mechanical ventilation compared to none in the sildenafil group. Ultimately, people in the sildenafil group had significantly shorter hospital stays than those in the placebo group (a median of 9 days versus a median of 12 days). However, there was no information as to whether it was more difficult to return patients to their beds.

Now 20 isn’t a big number unless you’re talking about the number of ferrets in your pants. There are too few patients to say whether the shorter length of stay was in fact due to sildenafil. Many other factors could have been at play. Remember that the Covid-19 vaccine trials included tens of thousands of patients. Moreover, it was only a study. Basing a medical opinion on a single study would be like getting married after a single appointment. Further studies are needed to confirm the results.

Of course, you could erect plausible mechanisms for how sildenafil can help people with severe lung problems from Covid-19. This could potentially improve blood flow to your lungs and in turn your lungs’ ability to get oxygen into your bloodstream to go to the rest of your body. This is because Viagra does not work on your penis just by offering encouraging words like “you can do it”, “up, up and far” or “you are really good in bed”. It inhibits an enzyme called phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE 5) which normally breaks down nitric oxide. This then allows for higher levels of nitric oxide, which causes the blood vessels in your penis to dilate or expand and thus lodge more blood. The idea is that Viagra may be able to dilate the blood vessels in your lungs in the same way. Some preliminary studies have suggested that such vasodilation could be the mechanism by which inhaling nitric oxide could potentially help people with severe lung problems induced by Covid-19.

Again, all of these conclusions are preliminary. Neither sildenafil nor nitric oxide have yet been established as safe and effective treatments for severe Covid-19. National Institutes of Health (NIH) Covid-19 treatment guidelines still recommend “against routine use of inhaled nitric oxide” for “mechanically ventilated adults with Covid-19 and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) “. Keep in mind that inhaling nitric oxide is not a totally benign thing either, it can lead to blurred vision, confusion, dizziness, lightheadedness, sweating, weakness, lips or bluish skin, chest discomfort, or difficulty breathing. You can also overdose on nitric oxide.

Moreover, none of this means that Viagra or nitric oxide can replace vaccination against Covid-19 and taking other Covid-19 precautions such as wearing face masks. At present, the potential of these drugs, if any, is for people hospitalized with severe Covid-19. So don’t say to your loved one: “Oh, it’s to protect yourself from the Covid, but by the way, since he’s here”. Do not convince yourself that you have rigid protection against Covid-19 just because you are taking Viagra regularly.

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