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Will Erectile Dysfunction Drugs Also Fight Osteoporosis?

Erectile dysfunction drugs vardenafil and tadalafil can improve bone density in mice. Will they work for men, too?
Will Erectile Dysfunction Drugs Also Fight Osteoporosis?
3D rendering Viagra blue barrel on a white background

Viagra is the widely recognized brand name for sildenafil. Doctors treating men for erection problems may prescribe that medication. On the other hand, they might prescribe different erectile dysfunction drugs, tadalafil or vardenafil. They all work by inhibiting an enzyme called phosphodiesterase 5A, or PDE5A for short.

How Could Erectile Dysfunction Drugs Treat Osteoporosis?

Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine have recently tested tadalafil and vardenafil to treat osteoporosis in mice. PDE5A is also found in bone-building cells called osteoblasts (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 8, 2020). Blocking the enzyme can improve the osteoblasts’ productivity and improve bone formation. In mice, both drugs boost bone formation and reduce bone loss. As a consequence, the mice had denser bones at the end of the study.

Although this research was conducted in mice, the scientists urge their colleagues to test these erectile dysfunction drugs for osteoporosis in humans. They imagine that it may one day be possible for doctors to treat aging men with just one drug. It would have a double goal: strengthen their bones and improve their sex lives.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
  • Kim S-E et al, "Repurposing erectile dysfunction drugs tadalafil and vardenafil to increase bone mass." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 8, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2000950117
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