Viagra’s generic brand of sildenafil associated with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s

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Viagra, the best-known drug for treating erectile dysfunction, is linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Seriously.

According to a new study published Monday in the journal Natural agingViagra, sildenafil, was associated with a 69% reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in a large-scale analysis of over 7 million patients.

It should be noted from the outset that this study does not establish a causal link between sildenafil and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s; it just suggests that there is a significant relationship that should be explored through actual clinical testing. But the results are a pleasant surprise nonetheless, and the latest in a series of recent studies that highlight the potential of using old drugs to treat unfathomable diseases.

“Prior to this study, we did not expect to identify sildenafil” as a drug candidate for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, said Feixiong Cheng, a researcher at the Cleveland Clinic and lead author of the new study.

Alzheimer’s disease is expected to affect more than 13.8 million Americans by 2050, which means it is essential to start identifying new, cost-effective therapies that could improve patients’ lives or even prevent the disease from spreading. progress first.

An untapped source of new treatments could be existing drugs that are inexpensive to manufacture and have known side effects that are tolerable. Cheng and his colleagues began their study by looking at more than 1,600 drugs approved by the FDA and used to treat other diseases and conditions. They focused their research on drugs that target the buildup of beta-amyloid and tau proteins in the brain, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease that causes neurodegenerative changes.

This screening identified a few drugs with the potential to reverse these protein buildups, and sildenafil (which, in addition to erectile dysfunction, is also sometimes prescribed to treat hypertension) emerged as the best candidate. Cheng and his colleagues discovered several animal studies that previously indicated that sildenafil may alleviate Alzheimer’s disease, and they also performed lab tests on human brain cells that proved the drug’s anti-tau effects.

In the final step of the study, the authors looked at a huge database of over 7 million Alzheimer’s patients to see if past and current sildenafil users have ever experienced better results from the drug. sickness. They found that sildenafil users were 69% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than non-users over the past six years. Sildenafil has also been linked to lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease than drugs like losartan and metformin which are already being studied in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease.

Encouraging stuff, but for obvious reasons it’s mostly men who take sildenafil. Controlled trials examining gender effects are needed before we can start renaming the little blue pills as Alzheimer’s drugs.

Fortunately, Cheng is already planning a Phase II trial to test the clinical benefits of sildenafil in patients with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. (A Phase I trial can be skipped because the safety of the drug is already well known.)

Cheng added that it is unlikely that sildenafil will be prescribed on its own. “Because Alzheimer’s disease is a complex disease caused by many factors, multi-target drugs or combination therapies targeting multiple disease pathways may provide better clinical benefits,” he said. It is more likely than not that sildenafil will be used in combination with other treatments.

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