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Impotence Drugs in the Spotlight -- for Different Reasons

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Uprima is thought to work by stimulating that area of the brain responsible for causing erections. Interestingly, it's also been used to treat Parkinson's disease.

Now a new study suggests that Viagra may prove beneficial to people with Parkinson's disease. Symptoms of Parkinson's include shaking, poor balance, muscle rigidity, and dyskinesia, or abnormal, involuntary muscle movements.

In this study, presented at a neurology conference in San Diego, seven of nine Parkinson's patients treated with Viagra experienced a significant improvement in dyskinesia, with three patients reporting a complete resolution. The benefits lasted for as long as they remained on the drug and returned when the drug was discontinued. The patients continued taking their other medicines while on Viagra and experienced no worsening of their symptoms. Flushing of the face, reported by one person, was the only side effect, and there was no change in sexual function.

Neurologist David M. Swope, MD, who conducted the trial, tells WebMD he was intrigued when one of his patients, a 60-year-old man, said his Parkinson's symptoms improved after he started taking Viagra for impotence. Swope theorizes that the drug's effects may resemble those of dopamine, a chemical in the brain and nervous system known to be decreased in Parkinson's patients. Swope is assistant professor of neurology at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, Calif.

"I was surprised it worked in these patients as well as it did," he says. "I ? wasn't expecting it to be effective in these patients." Swope warns that these findings are "very, very preliminary. We need more evidence that it actually works before it is used routinely." He is now designing another study to test the effects of Viagra more carefully. "I think [the role of Viagra] has yet to be defined, but potentially this might be a new approach to treatment."

Vital Information:

  • A recent study suggests the drug Uprima may safely treat impotence in patients who also have heart disease.
  • A Uprima researcher says the drug seems safer than Viagra for patients who are taking nitrates for their heart conditions. Doctors still don't know the long-term effects of taking Uprima and nitrates together.
  • Researchers also are testing how Viagra might help people with Parkinson's disease control some of their movement problems.
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