The study, launched this week and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, aims to help individuals regain or improve motor and speech skills as well as cognitive thinking. Viagra, or sildenafil, is a commonly prescribed drug for erectile dysfunction.
"We realized that we need to look at what we can do to help people who have had a stroke get their lives back," says Brian Silver, M.D., principal investigator and a neurologist at Henry Ford Hospital.
The hospital will enroll 84 patients in the study. Participants must be over age 18 and have suffered a moderate stroke within 72 hours of being placed in a study group.
Henry Ford Hospital has used Viagra for two Michigan patients for neurological recovery, both under a compassionate use basis.
One patient, Rene Jarinski, 43, has been treated with Viagra since suffering a stroke in July 2003. Transferred to Henry Ford from another hospital, she was diagnosed with locked in syndrome, a very uncommon condition, in which she could only move her eyes up down.
"To my knowledge she is the first patient in the United States who has been treated with Viagra specifically for stroke recovery," says Dr. Silver.
After being given doses of 50 and 100 milligrams early on, she now takes 150 milligrams daily.
"We're not certain that Viagra is helping the recovery, but she is now able to smile, eat, move all four limbs and stand up with assistance," says Silver. "Things moved slowly in the first couple of months; most of the recovery has come after the sixth month period. This is very uncommon for individuals after stroke who typically see a deceleration in recovery. Individuals with locked in syndrome rarely walk or talk again. Rene is making a recovery that doesn't follow the normal recovery curve."