Treatment with Viagra (sildenafil) can improve exercise capacity and functional ability in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension, a serious disease involving high pressure in the blood vessels that enter the lungs, a new study suggests.
According to a report by Reuters, the findings, which appear in The New England Journal of Medicine, are based on a study of 278 patients who were randomly selected to receive Viagra, at one of three doses, or inactive placebo three times daily for 12 weeks.
The main endpoint was the distance walked in 6 minutes. According to the report, the study did not have enough patients to assess the effect of Viagra on the risk of death.
At all of the doses tested, Viagra significantly improved the 6-minute walking distance when compared with placebo, lead author Dr. Nazzareno Galie, from the University of Bologna in Italy, and colleagues note. For the 222 patients who used Viagra for 1 year, the improvement in distance was 51 meters.
In addition, all of the Viagra doses were associated with a significant drop in lung blood pressure and with an improvement in functional ability.
Consistent with previous reports, side effects, such as flushing and diarrhea, were more common with Viagra than with placebo, the findings indicate.
"This study demonstrates the efficacy and safety of sildenafil in the treatment of patients with symptomatic pulmonary artery hypertension," the researchers conclude. However, as noted, the study was not designed to assess Viagra's effect on the risk of death.
The study was funded by Pfizer, Inc., which markets Viagra.