Daily Briefing

Around the nation: Can erectile dysfunction drugs reduce your risk of Alzheimer's?


A new study published in Neurology found that erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs were associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from the District of Columbia, North Carolina, and Minnesota. 

  • District of Columbia: The House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 211–208 on a bill to ban using quality-adjusted life years (QALY) to determine a drug's value in federal health programs. According to Axios, QALYs are used to calculate how many years a drug could help extend a person's life while also considering how the patient would feel during that longer time period. Although the measure has often been used in comparative effectiveness studies, some opponents say it is discriminatory against people with disabilities and has been implemented unevenly across federal programs. The Biden administration has voiced its opposition to the bill, arguing that it could lead to funding cuts for the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) Prevention and Public Health Fund. The administration also noted that the ACA and the Inflation Reduction Act already restrict Medicare from using QALYs as a measure. (Knight, Axios, 2/8; Tong, Fierce Healthcare, 2/7)
  • Minnesota: According to a new study published in Neurology, patients who took ED drugs had a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease. For the study, researchers analyzed data from 269,725 male patients in the United Kingdom who had been diagnosed with ED between 2000 and 2017. Patients with a history of dementia or cognitive impairment were excluded from the study. Patients who had a prescription for a hosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitor, such as Viagra or Cialis, were compared to those who did not. Over a median follow-up of five years, the researchers found that men who had PDE5 prescriptions were less likely to have an Alzheimer's diagnosis. The crude incident rate of Alzheimer's among patients using ED drugs was 8.1 per 10,000 person-years at risk, compared to 9.7 per 10,000 person-years for those not using the drugs. According to MedPage Today, the study's findings conflict with a recent NIH DREAM study that found no difference in Alzheimer's and dementia rates among Medicare recipients using PDE5 drugs compared to those using other drugs for pulmonary arterial hypertension. However, they align with findings from a previous case-control analysis that found that patients who used the PDE5 drug sildenafil were 69% less likely to develop Alzheimer's. Ultimately, the researchers said that "[a] well-designed randomized controlled trial is needed before [PDE5 inhibitors] can be prescribed for Alzheimer's disease prevention." (George, MedPage Today, 2/7)
  • North Carolina: Military personnel who were stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina between 1975 and 1985 had a 20% higher risk of certain cancers than those who were stationed elsewhere, CDC researchers found in a new study. According to the Associated Press, Camp Lejeune's drinking water was contaminated with industrial solvents between the early 1950s to 1985. Since then, many former residents have accused the Marine Corps of failing to protect their health and criticized the federal government for not investigating quickly enough. For the study, researchers analyzed data from 211,000 people who lived at Camp Lejeune between 1975 and 1985 and compared them to 224,000 people living at Camp Pendleton in California. Overall, researchers found that military personnel living at Camp Lejeune had a higher risk of certain types of leukemia, lymphoma, lung, breast, throat, esophagus, and thyroid cancer. Civilians working at the base also had a higher risk of certain cancers. According to David Savitz, a disease researcher at Brown University who has consulted on litigation related to Camp Lejeune, the study is "quite impressive" and will further support arguments from individuals who got sick after living and working at the base, but it is not definitive proof that the contaminated water caused cancer. "This is not something we're going to be able to resolve definitively," he said. "We are talking about exposures that happened (decades ago) that were not well documented." (Stobbe, Associated Press, 1/31)

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