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NSAIDs Linked To Higher Risk Of Erectile Dysfunction

March 3, 2011

Men who use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) three times a day for more than three months are 38 percent more likely to have erectile dysfunction (ED) as men who do not regularly take these drugs, according to a study by Kaiser Permanente.

The link between ED and pain medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen and Celebrex remained even after ruling out age and several other conditions as possible explanations, the researchers said.

The NSAIDs are believed to block the hormones that control men’s erections, which could help explain the findings, said Dr. Joseph Gleason, a urologist with Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles, the study’s lead author.

Gleason emphasized that the results do not prove that taking NSAIDs causes impotence. Indeed, it is possible that unknown factors may be at work, or that the study did not succeed in accounting for the influence of other diseases entirely.

For instance, some men take low dose aspirin to reduce their risk of heart attack, which in turn means their blood vessels are not in top shape, something that could affect the penis as well, Gleason told Reuters.

For the current study, Gleason and his colleagues used electronic health records, an automated pharmacy database and self-reported questionnaire data to examine NSAID use and ED in an ethnically diverse population of 80,966 men aged 45 to 69 years throughout California.

Overall, slightly less than half reported taking painkillers at least five times a week, while less than a third reported moderate or severe ED.

Of those who took painkillers regularly, 64 percent said they could never get an erection, compared with 36 percent who did not routinely take NSAIDs.

After accounting for factors like age, weight, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, the researchers still found a 38-percent higher risk of ED among men taking painkillers.

However, the researchers caution that men should not stop taking NSAIDs based on this study.

“There are many proven benefits of non steroidals in preventing heart disease and for other conditions. People shouldn’t stop taking them based on this observational study. However, if a man is taking this class of drugs and has ED, it’s worth a discussion with his doctor,” said study senior author Dr. Steven Jacobsen, an epidemiologist and director of research for Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

The study was published online February 22 in the Journal of Urology.

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