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New ED Drugs on Horizon

Faster Acting, Longer Lasting Treatments for Erectile Dysfunction
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 24, 2006 -- New treatments for erectile dysfunctionerectile dysfunction are on the way. One works fast. One lasts long. And another promises to be the next best thing to a cure.

The new drugs aren't here yet. They don't even have official brand names. But they promise to give men with erectile dysfunction even more options than they now get from Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra.

"We have a chance to glimpse the future of treatment in sexual dysfunction," says James Barada, MD, director of the Center for Sexual Health in Albany, N.Y. Barada moderated a news conference in which researchers discussed new findings reported at this week's annual meeting of the American Urological Association in Atlanta.

Nearly a Cure for ED?

For now, it is called hMaxi-K. Suitably enough for an erection treatment, it is a form of gene therapy called naked DNA. Its DNA carries a human genetic code into target cells. When the cell reads this code, it makes a protein. In the case of hMaxi-K, it is a protein that tells smooth muscles to relax.

That is why hMaxi-K is supposed to help erectile dysfunction, which happens when smooth muscle in the penis won't relax to let blood flow into the penis.

Arnold Melman, MD, chairs the department of urology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He's also co-founder of Ion Channel Innovations, the company that's developing hMaxi-K. At the urology meeting, Melman reported the results of the first human trial of hMaxi-K.

In this human study, 11 men with erectile dysfunction received injections of the gene therapy directly into the penis. Because this was the first human study, the doses used were smaller than those expected to have a true effect on erections.

The study was successful in two ways. First, it was safe. Second, two men who received higher doses of hMaxi-K had greatly improved erections -- which occurred only during sexual arousal -- for six months after a single treatment.

"Let me tell you what the patient who responded for six months said. He said he felt like a kid again," Melman said at the news conference. "With any current erectile dysfunction drug, you have to plan to have sex in order to give the drug time to work. With this, you don't have to plan sex. This lets you get normal erections whenever you are aroused. That is the big advantage."

Barada said the treatment borders on a cure.

"It is the interface between treatment and cure, because you affect the tissue itself so it responds in a normal fashion," he said.

There's even better news: hMaxi-K isn't just for getting erections. Melman says a wide range of diseases arise from the failure of smooth muscle to relax.

"These diseases don't get much respect," he said. "They include overactive bladder, asthmaasthma, irritable bowel syndrome, benign prostatic hyperplasia, premature labor, and premenstrual syndrome."

Melman said a clinical trial in overactive bladder patients is expected to begin this summer.

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