A new study reveals that men, who use erectile dysfunction drugs like viagra, are more likely to have sexually transmitted diseases as compared to non-users.
The findings indicate that physicians who prescribe erectile dysfunction drugs for their male patients should be sure to discuss the importance of safer sex practices, even with older patients.
For the study, the researchers analysed insurance records of more than 1.4 million U.S. men over 40.
"Anyone who does not practice safer sex, no matter their age, can contract an STD. Even though STDs are quite rare among older men - on the order of 1 per 1,000 individuals - we found that STD rates in men who used ED drugs were two to three times higher, both before and after they filled their first prescription," says Dr. Anupam B. Jena, of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Department of Medicine, the study's lead author.
The researchers noted that ED drugs have become popular since sildenafil (Viagra) was first introduced in 1998.
Studies have shown both that rates of STDs, including HIV/AIDS, are rising in older individuals as well as the general public and that people over 50 are much less likely than those in their 20s to use condoms during sex or be tested for HIV infection.
A survey of primary care physicians found that they rarely if ever discussed reducing sexual risk factors with middle aged or older patients.
Small studies of men who have sex with men had associated the use of ED drugs with higher-risk behaviours and increased rates of STDs.
HIV/AIDS was the most frequently reported STD in study participants, followed by chlamydia.
Since the prevalence of STDs did not markedly change after ED drug therapy began, the authors note that the difference between groups of participants probably reflects higher-risk sexual practices among users of the drugs.
The data gathered could not indicate whether ED drug use itself increased STD risk, but the authors are investigating that question in a further study.
The study has been published in a recent issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.