Recently I read in a magazine about a new pill that men can take to get an erection. When will this be available?
Medications, taken by mouth, to improve erections are a hot issue in the media these days as evidenced by magazine articles and television and radio shows. Millions of American men are about to benefit from a treatment revolution that promises to restore sexual functioning and erections without the discomfort of injecting drugs into the penis.
The first of these, produced by Pfizer, Inc., is called Viagra or Sildenafil. Knowledgeable clinicians expect the drug, which was submitted for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in September 1997, to be on the market by spring 1998. Many professionals anticipate approval as soon as April because FDA promised a quick review.
Viagra blocks an enzyme called cyclic GMP, which in turn promotes erection. In studies of several thousand men, Viagra helped about 80% achieve an erection when they became sexually stimulated and had taken the drug about an hour before sexual activity. Adverse effects from the medication are said to be extremely minimal.
Interestingly enough, researchers expect that many men will take this drug on a regular basis to reduce the chance of erection problems later in life. From age 40 to 70, erectile difficulties are often associated with poor circulation, hypertension, depression, smoking, diabetes, and alcohol use. Apparently, regular Viagra and Sildenafil use will promote penis oxygenation, which is critical in avoiding future erectile problems. (This is similar to someone taking a daily aspirin to prevent heart attack.) As a result, some people predict these medications will cause as much of a sexual revolution in the United States as the birth control pill did when it was introduced some 30 years ago.
Although scientific journals such as Paraplegia have reported preliminary studies of this drug on men with SCI, no one at this time is quite sure what to expect. Many researchers anticipate good results, especially in the case of people with incomplete injuries. With other disabilities such as diabetes, early studies have been very favorable with noticeable improvements in erectile functioning for most men. When a history of erectile tissue scarring exists, injections or implants will probably continue to be the treatment of choice.
Clearly, major changes are occurring in this field, with drug companies pumping millions of dollars into research on male sexual functioning. Tremendous efforts are underway to be the first erection drug approved and on the market. If these medications interest you, keep abreast of the news and in touch with a medical professional.
Dr. Ducharme is a clinical psychologist in the Departments of Rehabilitation Medicine and Urology at Boston University Medical Center. A member of the PVA Spinal Cord Injury Education and Training Foundation (ETF) Board of Directors, he is also editor of The Journal of Sexuality and Disability (Human Sciences Press/Plenum Publishing Co., New York City) and is associated with many professional organizations. He has authored numerous articles and books and speaks at conferences around the world.
Readers may send questions anonymously to Stanley H. Ducharme, Ph.D., Boston University Medical Center, 720 Harrison Avenue, Suite 906, Boston, MA 0211 8.