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Viagra Safe for Some Men With Heart Failure

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March 9, 2004 -- Men with mild to moderate forms of heart failure may be able to safely use the drug Viagra to treat erectile dysfunction, a new study shows.

Researchers found selected men with heart failure were able to use the drug without dangerous side effects if they were not taking nitrates (drugs commonly used to treat heart failure) and had no evidence of a lack of blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle -- commonly caused by narrowed heart arteries.

Previous reports have shown that Viagra could trigger potentially dangerous drops in blood pressure in these men. But this study showed that although the drug caused a slight reduction in blood pressure in this group of 35 men, no one experienced a dangerous drop in blood pressure or other significant side effects while taking Viagra.

However, Viagra can cause significant decreases in blood pressure in people taking nitrates and should not be taken by this group.

According to researchers, erectile dysfunction affects more than half of all men aged 40 to 70 and is common among men with heart failure, both are conditions that are linked to vascular problems. Heart failure is a condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body's needs.

Despite the fact that ED is common among men with heart failure, researchers say the effectiveness and safety of treatment of erectile dysfunction has not been thoroughly studied.

Study Clears Some Viagra Fears

Researchers say initial reports of deaths associated with Viagra use soon after the drug was released have caused physicians to hesitate before prescribing the drug to patients with significant heart disease.

However, it is now known that the drug does not increase heart-related deaths, say researcher Linda J. Webster, MScN, of the University of Alberta, and colleagues.

In this study, researchers looked at the effects of treating ED with Viagra in a carefully selected group of 35 men with mild to moderate heart failure who did not use nitates. The men were randomly divided into two groups: one took Viagra for six weeks and then switched to a placebo for six weeks, and the other took a placebo for six weeks and then took Viagra for another six weeks.

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