Charles A. Bertrand, M.D., FACP, DIM-CD (Ret.)
Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at New York Medical College
and at the Medical University of South Carolina


I'm sure that most Americans have now seen former Senator Dole talking about erectile dysfunction on television. In a commercial paid for by Pfizer, makers of Viagra, Dole tells America that he was worried about erectile dysfunction (ED) when faced with prostate surgery several years ago. He doesn't actually say he now uses Viagra, nor does he tell us whether or not he still suffers from ED. Having read medical reports on the subject, I can tell you that Viagra is just moderately successful in men who have had extensive prostatic surgery.

However, a recent study indicates a better prognosis for men with diabetes than was anticipated. Approximately seven and a half million men in the United States suffer from diabetes. About half of these experience erectile dysfunction, a common complication of diabetes. (This high percentage of ED in diabetic men can be attributed to the failure of the arteries to deliver enough blood to the penis, just as they often fail to deliver sufficient blood to the legs.)

While researchers have found that Viagra successfully combats erectile dysfunction in the general population, until recently no study had focused on the drug's effectiveness in treating diabetic men. However, a new report on Viagra and diabetes appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Volume 281, pp. 421-426, February 3, 1999.) This multicenter study evaluated 268 diabetic men, with appropriate use of placebo and randomization controls. The average age of the men was 57, and they were monitored over 5.6 years.

Researchers took precautions to avoid serious risks in their use of Viagra. For example, they were careful not to administer the drug to patients with heart trouble who were already taking a nitrate preparation.

During the study, Viagra was ingested approximately one hour before anticipated sexual activity. Two-hundred fifty-two patients (94 percent) completed the study, and the results were highly encouraging:

These results are particularly impressive because one of the requirements for admission to the study was erectile dysfunction of at least six months duration, so the condition was serious.

However, some side effects were reported:

It is interesting to note that the treatment was just as effective in older men as in younger men, nor did it matter how long the patient had suffered from diabetes.

A companion editorial, while pointing out that Viagra did not work in every case, concluded that the drug would have value for many diabetics - whereas previously no oral medication had proven effective.

As the phenomenal success of Viagra has demonstrated, people will do almost anything to improve their sex lives. For this reason, you can expect the development of more "lifestyle medications" from other pharmaceutical companies. Sex sells, and better sex sells better - whether the buyer is a diabetic or an ex-Senator with a problem.

The advice provided on this website is intended to be general in nature and should not be relied upon for specific treatment. If you need personal medical attention please contact your physician.

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