Hope may be in store for men who experience one of the most common side-effects of diabetes: impotence. In the past, men have relied on mechanical devices and injections to boost their sex lives, but a new drug called sildenfil may offer aid without the need for pumps or sharp needles. Pfizer Inc. from Sandwich, England, was testing a drug for angina, the chest pain preceding a heart attack, when the subjects of the study reported an unexpected bonus: improved erections.
Viagra, Pfizer’s marketing name for sildenfil, was tested on 351 men with positive results as high as 89 percent. Pfizer has launched a world-wide study involving 2,500 patients, but results from the test will not be available for at least two years. Viagra works by blocking the action of an enzyme in the penis that contributes to impotence, says Dr. Ian Osterloh of Pfizer Inc. The pill could be taken up to an hour before intercourse.
Viagra “enhances the natural response to sexual stimulus, so it doesn’t produce an erection out of the blue,” says Osterloh.
Urologists estimate that over 20 million men in America experience impotence. A Masters & Johnson study of sexual relations in the 1960s labeled impotence a mental rather than physical problem. But researchers have proven in recent years that impotence can be a physical ailment. Impotence is a common form of neuropathy among men with diabetes, and is also common in men with high blood pressure and heart disease.
It’s difficult to say whether the successful preliminary results of Pfizer’s tests can be attributed to physical benefits or psychological effects. Almost 40 percent of men who took a placebo rather than the actual drug still reported improved erections. The researchers did not base their results upon actual observation of an erection, but upon questionnaires filled out by the subjects.