A new study shows that cholesterol-lowering drugs may boost the erectile function in men. The study, presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session and published in the Journal of Sexual Medication, was led by Dr. John B. Kostis from the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School New Brunswick in New Jersey.
For the study, researchers looked at 647 men who suffer from both high cholesterol and erectile dysfunction. The men, with an average age of 57.8, received statins for a period of 3.8 months. The study’s findings show that not only their cholesterol levels decreased, but their erectile function increased by 24.3 percent. According to Kostis, the effects of cholesterol-lowering drugs were even larger than those achieved by a lifestyle modification or other drugs. “The increase in erectile function was one-third to 50 percent of what has been reported with other medication, like Viagra, Levitra or Cialis,” Kostis said during the presentation.
While the study shows that the erectile function in men may be boosted by taking statins, researchers do not have a clear answer as to how cholesterol-lowering drugs improve the erectile function. Dr. Jeffrey Kuvin from the Tufts Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts says, “It remains unclear whether the erectile function improves due to a lower cholesterol level or due to other effects of statins, but the study shows that cholesterol medication only improves the erectile function for a short duration after the therapy.”
Other doctors have also speculated about how the drugs may affect the erectile function. Some researchers say it could be improved because statins dilate the blood vessels properly, which in turn improves vascular flow to the penis. Vascular flow to the penis is often known to be restricted in men who suffer from erectile dysfunction.
Recently, a study showed that erectile dysfunction is often one of the first clues of cardiovascular problems in men and the study suggested that advertising medication that could aid both conditions could make sense.
Kostis and his colleagues may have made men with erectile dysfunction eager to try out cholesterol-lowering drugs; however, researchers say the drugs should only be taken by men with high cholesterol levels. Additionally, previous studies have shown that statins reduce testosterone levels, which lower the sexual drive and energy. “The benefits of statins on erectile dysfunction still predominate,” Kostis commented.
With the findings of the study, researchers hope that men are more willing to take cholesterol-lowering drugs, as a study of 90,000 men shows that 35 percent of patients take less than a quarter of their medication and 60 percent took less than half. Kostis says, “The findings may improve adherence of statin-therapy, as we know that many patients take a much lower amount than prescribed by their doctor.”
In the U.S., erectile dysfunction occurs in 18 to 30 million men. Most of these men are over the age of 40 and common causes are stress, depression, tobacco use, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol problems. Kostis is confident about the results of his study, but states further study is required to definitively show that cholesterol-lowering drugs can boost the erectile function.
By Diana Herst