Cholesterol Rx May Give Men's Love Life a Lift

Erectile function improved in men with cardiovascular risk factors who took statins

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) For older men with narrowing of arteries or other heart health risk factors, statins may be prescribed to lower cholesterol. The medication may add an unexpected boost in the bedroom as well.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) can be fairly common among men over the age of 40, especially those who have diabetes or atherosclerosis (clogged arteries). With factors that may be threatening their cardiovascular health, these men may take statins to reduce blood cholesterol levels.

New research has found that these statins may pack a bonus — improved erectile function.

"Talk to your doctor about statins for high cholesterol."

John Kostis, MD, director of the Cardiovascular Institute and associate dean for Cardiovascular Research at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey, and his colleagues reviewed 11 trials examining erectile dysfunction and statin use. The studies included 713 men with a mean age of about 58 years old.

Participants evaluated their erectile function by completing the International Inventory of Erectile Function (IIEF), a simple five-question self-taken survey. The self quiz scored each question on a scale of 1 to 5 for a total possible score of 25, with lower numbers representing poorer sexual function.

The authors discovered that, on average, each man who took statins experienced a rise in his erectile function score of 3.4 points after taking statins for about three months. The IIEF went from 14.0 to 17.4, or a 24.3 percent increase.

“The increase in erectile function scores with statins was approximately one-third to one-half of what has been reported with drugs like Viagra, Cialis or Levitra [which specifically target ED]," said Dr. Kostis in a press release.

He added, however, that the average IIEF increase was greater than effects reported by lifestyle modification (such as diet and exercise).

An estimated 18 million to 30 million men experience ED. Researchers list heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, tobacco use, depression and stress as common causes.

Statins such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), simvastatin (Zocor), lovastatin (Mevacor), pravastatin (Pravachol), and rosuvastatin (Crestor) help reduce heart risks by interfering with the production of cholesterol in the liver, and this can slow the buildup of plaque in the arteries.

Because statins can improve blood flow, investigators suspect that they may also enhance blood vessel dilation in the penis.

Dr. Kostis said that many men who are prescribed statins stop taking them or fail to take the prescribed amount.

He told dailyRx News, "This meta-analysis shows an improvement of erectile function with statins. This could be an additional benefit in patients who receive statins to decrease their risk of cardiovascular events, and may help improve adherence to these medications. The data do not support the use of statins to improve erectile function in patients with normal cholesterol."

The study was presented at the end of March at American College of Cardiology's 63rd Annual Scientific Session and published online at the same time in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Review Date: 
March 30, 2014
Last Updated:
April 1, 2014