Viagra-like drug designed to treat impotence can reverse effects of heart failure, study shows

‘Entirely possible’ men being treated for impotence are already unwittingly benefiting

Alex Matthews-King
Health Correspondent
Wednesday 01 May 2019 16:59
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Cialis prevented sheep progressing to heart failure – it may have a similar effect on humans
Cialis prevented sheep progressing to heart failure – it may have a similar effect on humans

A Viagra-like drug widely used for the treatment of erectile dysfunction may provide an effective treatment for life-threatening heart failure.

UK scientists hailed the “breakthrough” findings after demonstrating the effects of the drug tadalafil, sold as Cialis, in sheep.

But they said it was “entirely possible” that some men being treated for impotence are already benefiting from the protection it affords.

Animals made to develop the disease did not progress into heart failure when given the drug, while those with the condition improved.

“This discovery is an important advance in a devastating condition which causes misery for thousands of people across the UK and beyond,” said Professor Andrew Trafford, from the University of Manchester, the lead researcher on the study.

He added that limited evidence from human trials and epidemiological studies demonstrates tadalafil can be effective in treating heart failure, but this study explains why it is so effective, and shows it to be a possible therapy.

“It’s entirely possible that some patients taking it for erectile dysfunction have also unwittingly enjoyed a protective effect on their heart,” Professor Trafford said.

Heart failure occurs when the heart is too weak to pump sufficient blood around the body. It can follow a heart attack, or be caused by a genetic abnormality.

People affected by heart failure are quickly exhausted and suffer breathlessness and swelling caused by fluid backing up in the lungs.

As the condition worsens it can become life-threatening. Five-year survival rates for heart failure are lower than for most common cancers.

For the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, sheep were fitted with pacemakers that induced heart failure advanced enough to need treatment.

The animals were chosen because they have hearts similar to those of humans.

Cialis almost completely reversed the biological cause of breathlessness in sheep with heart failure – the inability of the heart to respond to adrenaline.

The heart’s ability to force blood around the body when working harder was increased.

However, Professor Trafford warned patients not to self-treat, despite it being widely used, because of potential interactions with other drugs or conditions.

Professor Metin Avkiran, from the British Heart Foundation, which funded the study, said Viagra-like drugs were initially developed as heart medications.

“We seem to have gone full circle, with findings from recent studies suggesting that they may be effective in the treatment of some forms of heart disease – in this case, heart failure,” he said.

“We need safe and effective new treatments for heart failure, which is a cruel and debilitating condition that affects almost a million people in the UK.”

Tadalafil acts like Viagra but is favoured by many men because of its longer-lasting effects.

Additional reporting by PA

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