Viagra Safe for Men With Heart Disease

From the WebMD Archives

Feb. 12, 2002 -- If you're strong enough to take the sex, you're strong enough to take Viagra. A new study finds Viagra safe for men with heart disease -- if they're able to exercise without having the symptoms of severe disease.

Men taking nitrate drugs (such as nitroglycerin) to ease the symptoms of heart disease can't use Viagra. Even when a man isn't taking nitrates, there's been concern that Viagra might make his underlying heart disease much worse. There have been reports of men suffering heart attacks or chest pain after taking the popular erectile dysfunction drug.

Adelaide M. Arruda-Olson, MD, PhD, led a team of Mayo Clinic researchers who studied the effects of Viagra on 105 men with coronary artery disease (or heart disease). The men took Viagra or a harmless sugar pill an hour before exercise tests. Then medications were switched, and the men exercised and were tested again.

The results: Viagra itself didn't make exercise harder on the heart.

"It seems more likely that the [heart attacks and pain] reported with [Viagra] are related more to the performance of sexual activity in a patient with coronary artery disease than the use of the drug," notes Thomas H. Marwick, MD, PhD. Marwick is a heart disease researcher at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. The Arruda-Olson study, and Marwick's accompanying editorial, appear in the Feb. 13 issue of TheJournal of the American Medical Association.

Arruda-Olson and co-workers warn that men with heart disease should see their doctors before taking Viagra. They recommend exercise tests to determine whether patients' hearts are strong enough for the drug.

The researchers warn that men taking nitrate-based drugs for their heart condition should not take Viagra.