Hamilton, Ontario—A lot of men may be reluctant to share their concerns with a pharmacist but probably will be anxious to hear the results of a recent study: Drugs used to treat cardiovascular risk factors don’t appear to affect erectile function.

The doesn’t necessarily mean those men can avoid sexual dysfunction, however, according to the study in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology. The conditions for which they are being treated—such as high blood pressure—increase the risk of ED, although the drugs are often blamed, note the Canadian study authors, led by researchers from McMaster University.

The study team found, however, that cholesterol-lowering statins and blood-pressure lowering candesartan/HCTZ do not negatively affect erectile function.

“Previous research suggests that cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol increase the risk of ED, but there has been little research examining whether modifying these risk factors can impact its development,” explained lead investigator Philip Joseph, MD, assistant professor of medicine at McMaster, in Hamilton, Ontario.

To reach that their conclusions, investigators conducted a sub-study of the Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation—3 (HOPE-3), a randomized controlled trial testing candesartan/HCTZ versus placebo, rosuvastatin versus placebo, and the combination of these medications versus double placebo. 

At the beginning of the study and again at a mean follow-up of 5.8 years, 2,000 participants answered a questionnaire related to erectile function. Results indicate that no significant change in erectile function occurred in any of the treatment groups compared with the placebo groups.

“This study shows that lowering these critically important cardiac risk factors using these medications has little impact on changes in erectile function,” Joseph noted. “Men who develop ED while on such medications commonly attribute their symptoms to the medications. Our findings suggest that these two medications do not negatively impact erectile function, which should be reassuring to men who are taking them.” 

An accompanying editorial urged healthcare professionals to use the information to reassure patients on cardiovascular-prevention drugs. “Patients who express concern about ED should be reassured about the lack of impact with statins or the combination of angiotensin receptor blocker/thiazide,” wrote G.B. John Mancini, MD, FRCPC, FACC, professor of cardiology in the Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia.
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