Erectile dysfunction is often a sign of a more severe vascular problem that involves abnormalities in the lining of the blood vessels. And often, endothelial dysfunction is an underlying problem for ED - it can be one of the first signs of atherosclerosis, a build-up of plaque and blockages in the arteries.
"It's already known that there is a connection between erectile dysfunction and coronary disease. The risk factors are the same for both, and thus, ED can be a marker for coronary disease," explains lead author Howard Herrmann, MD, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Interventional Cardiology and Cardiac Catheterization Laboratories at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. "Normal erections are caused when nitric oxide is made, but with endothelial dysfunction, the body doesn't make enough of it, causing the erectile dysfunction. Normally, Viagra prevents the breakdown of the little nitric oxide that is there, so that there is enough of it for an erection to occur."
However, about 10-30 % of men are classified as "Viagra non-responders" - in these men, Viagra did not significantly help their erectile dysfunction. So in a small, double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study at Penn, Herrmann looked at a dozen patients with ED who had not responded well to Viagra. He gave them either a high-dose Lipitor or a placebo. He then rechallenged them with Viagra and asked if the ED had improved.
"There did seem to be some improvement for those who received Lipitor versus the placebo," said Herrmann. "We theorized that if you could make the edothelium healthier through the use of statins -- so that there is more nitric oxide availa
Contact: Susanne Hartman
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine