How Viagra Could Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Sildenafil may improve insulin sensitivity, reduce biomarker in prediabetes patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh

(RxWiki News) The little blue pill might have found another use outside the bedroom.

A new study from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine found that sildenafil (brand name Viagra) may improve insulin sensitivity and reduce a biomarker that signals an increased risk of heart and kidney disease in prediabetes patients. In prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes.

"We need additional strategies to help slow the progression from prediabetes to diabetes," said study author Nancy J. Brown, MD, a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt, in a press release. "Weight loss and exercise regimens can be difficult to maintain, and some current medications have been limited by concerns about adverse effects. Sildenafil and related drugs could offer a potential avenue for addressing the rising number of diabetes diagnoses."

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body metabolizes sugar. In this condition, the body either resists the effects of insulin (a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar into the cells) or doesn't produce enough insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance precedes type 2 diabetes.

According to the Endocrine Society, more than 29 million Americans have diabetes. And for every 1,000 US adults, 300 have prediabetes. Without intervention, it is estimated that between 15 and 30 percent of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years.

For this study, Dr. Brown and team looked at 51 overweight patients with prediabetes. These patients were randomly assigned to treatment with sildenafil or a placebo for three months.

Tests were then performed to assess insulin sensitivity. Urine samples were also collected to measure albumin and creatinine (markers of heart and kidney health) concentrations.

Among the patients on sildenafil, Dr. Brown and team found higher levels of insulin sensitivity and lower levels of albumin compared to patients on placebo. Raised levels of albumin in the urine suggest an increased risk of heart and kidney disease.

This study was published online Nov. 18 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The National Institutes of Health funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
November 18, 2015
Last Updated:
November 19, 2015