December 9, 2011 / 6:40 AM / 8 years ago

Impotence risk higher if men take several drugs

Dec 9 (Reuters) - Men taking multiple medications for different health conditions may have a higher risk of erectile dysfunction, a link that doesn’t seem to be explained by the underlying health problems themselves, a U.S. study of more than 37,000 men showed.

It is known that men with chronic health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol are more likely to develop erectile dysfunction, or ED, than healthier men their age.

But researchers looking at 37,700 men in a large California health plan found that those on three or more medications had higher rates of ED, according to findings published in the British Journal of Urology International.

“The data suggest that some characteristic of men on multiple medications may predispose them to ED,” said senior researcher Steven Jacobsen at Kaiser Permanente Southern California’s Department of Research and Evaluation.

Overall, 16 percent of men on no more than two drugs reported moderate ED, meaning they sometimes had trouble getting or maintaining an erection. That compared with 20 percent of men on three to five medications, 25 percent of men on six to nine drugs and 31 percent of those on at least 10 drugs.

Not surprisingly, ED was more common in men who were older, heavier, smoked or had health problems like diabetes or high blood pressure. But even when the researchers accounted for that, being on multiple medications was still tied to an increased ED risk.

The findings were based on questionnaires given to 37,712 men aged 45 to 69. Overall, 29 percent reported moderate or severe ED.

More than half of the men were on more than three medications in the past year. As expected, men with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes or depression tended to be on more medications.

Men on three to five medications were 15 percent more likely to report ED than those on fewer drugs, with the odds more than doubled among men on 10 or more medications.

But the findings do not prove that the drugs themselves are to blame, said Jacobsen.

“We did try to control for the underlying conditions, but we may not have completely accounted for aspects such as severity,” he told Reuters Health in an email.

But he also said it was possible the drugs could contribute to or worsen ED via drug interactions, for example, although there was no way to tell for sure from the findings.

He added that while men with ED should not stop taking their medications without talking to their doctor, they could ask to see if it might be possible to lower a dose or try an alternative treatment. SOURCE: (Reporting from New York by Amy Norton at Reuters Health; Editing by Elaine Lies and Yoko Nishikawa)

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