Viagra potentially cuts risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease -study

Sildenafil, the generic name of the erectile-dysfunction drug Viagra, was determined to be the best candidate of over 1,600 drugs studied.

 Viagra tablet (photo credit: VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Viagra tablet
(photo credit: VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

A new Cleveland Clinic study has found that the popular erectile-dysfunction drug “Viagra” may reduce the risk of contracting Alzheimer’s disease by 69%.

The study, which was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Aging, reviewed over 1,600 FDA-approved medicines for drugs that target amyloid plaques – proteins situated in the brain’s grey matter – and tau tangles: a buildup of proteins in the brain commonly associated with Alzheimer's disease. Sildenafil, the generic name of Viagra, was determined to be the best candidate of all the drugs studied.

“Sildenafil, which has been shown to significantly improve cognition and memory in preclinical models, presented as the best drug candidate,” said Dr. Feixiong Cheng of the Cleveland Clinic’s Genomic Medicine Institute and the study’s leader.

Researchers followed the surprising discovery by examining the relationship between sildenafil and Alzheimer’s disease outcomes. Using a database of insurance claims from over 7.2 million people in the US to compare sildenafil users to non-users, researchers found that users were 69% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than non-users after six years of study and follow-up.

 Alzheimer's disease (illustrative). (credit: VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS) Alzheimer's disease (illustrative). (credit: VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

“Notably, we found that sildenafil use reduced the likelihood of Alzheimer’s in individuals with coronary artery disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes, all of which are co-morbidities significantly associated with risk of the disease, as well as in those without,” Cheng said.

Cheng stopped short of declaring sildenafil a viable treatment for Alzheimer's disease, saying that clinical trials involving both sexes were needed to determine sildenafil’s true efficacy.

Dr. Ivan Koychev, a senior clinical researcher at the University of Oxford who was not involved in the study, told The Guardian that the discovery was “an exciting development… it points to a specific drug which may offer a new approach to treating the condition.”

Some are more skeptical, as Prof. Tara Spires-Jones of the University of Edinburgh told The Guardian. “While these data are interesting scientifically, based on this study, I would not rush out to start taking sildenafil as a prevention for Alzheimer’s disease.”

Alzheimer’s disease affects an estimated 160,000 people in Israel and is among the most prevalent cognitive degenerative disease in the world. It typically affects those age 65 and older, progressively destroying memory and other important mental functions.