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Viagra: Treatment for Lung Disease?

Study Shows Drug May Lower Blood Pressure in Lungs of COPD Patients
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 25, 2006 -- Viagra may ease blood pressure in the lungs of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

That's according to a small Dutch study presented in Salt Lake City at Chest 2006, held by the American College of Chest Physicians.

COPD is the No. 4 cause of death in the U.S. and worldwide, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

COPD is a lung disease in which breathing is difficult. It's usually caused by smoking cigarettes, but it can also be caused by other lung irritants.

The disease develops slowly and may take years to show symptoms, which include:

  • Cough
  • Sputum (mucus) production
  • Shortness of breath (especially with exercise)
  • WheezingWheezing
  • Chest tightness

Those symptoms may or may not indicate COPD, states the NHLBI's web site.

Viagra Study

The Viagra study included 12 COPD patients, half of whom had high blood pressurehigh blood pressure in the pulmonary artery, which brings blood to the lungs. The development of pulmonary hypertensionpulmonary hypertension is a complication of COPD, but not everyone with COPD will develop it.

The researchers included Sebastiaan Holverda, MSc, of Amsterdam's University Medical Center.

They tracked the patients' pulmonary artery blood pressure before and after taking Viagra.

Why Viagra? It relaxes (dilates) blood vessels, lowering blood pressure and helping blood to flow.

First, the patients rested. Then they pedaled a stationary bike for three minutes at a mild pace.

As expected, pulmonary artery blood pressure was higher during exercise, since the lungs were working harder.

Next, the patients took a Viagra pill, waited 45 minutes, and repeated the rest and exercise tests.

Their pulmonary artery blood pressure during exercise was lower after taking Viagra.

"These data suggest that during daily activities some COPD patients may benefit" from drugs that dilate blood vessels, the researchers write.

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