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Sildenafil (Viagra) Shown to Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease by 69%

Most people know Sildenafil (Viagra’s active ingredient) for its ability to help men achieve stronger, longer-lasting erections. But new research suggests this medication may have benefits for your head (the other one).

Cleveland Clinic found that people who use Sildenafil may be less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease—a neurological disorder that causes the brain to shrink, often destroying memory and other mental functions.

Currently, there isn’t a cure for Alzheimer’s, so this discovery was exciting for the medical community as well as individuals and families that the disease has impacted. But how did researchers figure out that a drug to treat erectile dysfunction could also prevent Alzheimer’s?

It’s all about big data.

How Experts Found a Link Between Sildenafil and Alzheimer’s Prevention

Instead of formulating new drugs (which can be time-consuming and costly), researchers often turn to “drug repurposing,” which means finding ways to use existing drugs for new therapeutic purposes. (Fun fact: sildenafil was originally developed to treat high blood pressure, but researchers noticed it was better at inducing erections).

For Alzheimer’s, Cleveland Clinic’s Genomic Medicine Institute analyzed about 1,600 drugs to determine which could be the most effective. Using computational methodology, they mapped trends within a database of more than seven million patients. Six years later, the results were in: who took sildenafil were 69% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

“Sildenafil, which has been shown to significantly improve cognition and memory in preclinical models, presented as the best drug candidate,” said lead researcher Feixiong Cheng, PhD. “Notably, we found that sildenafil use reduced the likelihood of Alzheimer’s in individuals with coronary artery disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes, all of which are comorbidities significantly associated with risk of the disease, as well as in those without.”

How Might Sildenafil Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer’s?

To understand how Sildenafil may protect people from Alzheimer’s, we have to understand what happens to the brain when the disease occurs. Dr. Cheng’s team explains that a buildup of two proteins—amyloid and tau—is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s-related brain damage.

Past clinical trials with drugs that targeted either one of these proteins (not both) have failed over the past two decades. However, it turns out Sildenafil targets the “molecular network intersection” of amyloid and tau.

Cleveland Clinic projects Alzheimer’s to impact nearly 14 million Americans by 2050. And while Sildenafil isn’t approved by the FDA to treat the disease right now, it may soon be prescribed to combat it.

Cheng emphasized that his team’s findings need to undergo clinical trials before Sildenafil can be used as a treatment specifically for Alzheimer’s. “We are now planning a mechanistic trial and a phase II randomized clinical trial to…confirm sildenafil’s clinical benefits for Alzheimer’s patients,” he says. “We also foresee our approach being applied to other neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s disease.”

So, what does this mean for people who are curious about taking Sildenafil (or already do)?

Should You Take Sildenafil to Prevent Alzheimer’s?

It’s important to remember that, as of now, Sildenafil is only approved by the FDA to help men get better erections. Any additional benefits—including Alzheimer’s prevention—aren’t official until further research confirms them.

“While these data are interesting scientifically, based on [Cleveland Clinic’s] study, I would not rush out to start taking sildenafil as a prevention for Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Susan Kohlhaas, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, told The Guardian.

That said, if you already take Sildenafil, the recent findings could give you some extra encouragement knowing your treatment may have benefits beyond helping you perform in the bedroom.

Or maybe you’re on the fence about trying Sildenafil, and this data gave you an incentive to go for it. If that’s the case, BlueChew makes it easy and affordable to access Sildenafil. Just choose your plan, complete a free health evaluation, and once you’re approved, we ship your chewable tablets straight to your door in discreet packaging.