Viagra is so popular that it is a frequent target of counterfeiters. Here, a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent displays his seized goods.
Viagra is so popular that it is a frequent target of counterfeiters. Here, a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent displays seized goods.

Viagra (sildenafil) has featured prominently in the news over the past few months – for both positive and negative reasons. The drug has experienced a rollercoaster of a ride through the press this year, with research finding that the drug may increase your risk for melanoma by 84% while also helping your heart. Now, Pfizer hopes to reach men with erectile dysfunction through the women they wish to please, in an effort to sell more of the drug. Pfizer faces mounting competition from generics and rival drugs, like the newly FDA approved Stendra, making this new advertising campaign important for their brand.

Pfizer has also chosen to reject the industry euphemism of “ED” in favor of calling a spade a spade. The new commercials feature liberal use of the word erection and do not rely on the sexual innuendo of the past. Pfizer spends nearly $100 million a year on direct to consumer advertising for Viagra. Sales of the drug topped nearly $2 billion in profits in 2013.

Viagra may soon have another use. The journal BMC Medicine just recently published a new study showing that Viagra can possibly prevent the thickening of the heart and early-stage heart failure. The studied dosage for heart disease is lower and doesn’t produce the same side effects seen with the dosage used for erectile dysfunction.

The researchers found that the action of the PDE5 inhibitor (Viagra) prevented the heart from changing shape. This is important for patients who have left ventricular hypertrophy, marked by the thickening and enlargement of the heart muscle. Positive effects were also noted in patients with different types of cardiac illnesses. PDE5 prevents the relaxation of smooth muscle tissue, which is why an inhibitor might have such positive effects on the heart (a smooth muscle).

Interestingly enough, the very same reason that Viagra might have positive effects on the heart might be the same reason it can increase the risk of deadly melanoma in a patient by 84%. PDE5 inhibitors, overall, may increase the invasiveness of melanoma cells. This means that melanoma cells might spread through the body (and metastasize) more quickly than if PDE5 had not been inhibited. Early treatment of melanoma is the key to surviving the deadly form of cancer, and the use of Viagra may drastically shorten that early treatment window. There are various studies which indicate this effect of sildenafil.

The use of Viagra has now become a complicated issue for many American men. On one hand, Viagra treats a serious dysfunction that many men experience in their later years. And according to Pfizer, erectile dysfunction doesn’t just affect men. Of course, many men may also have cardiac issues that could be helped by the drug. Now, studies have shown that Viagra may increase the invasiveness of melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer. What’s a man to do in the 21st century? One thing’s for sure – Pfizer’s hoping they look to their wives for an answer.

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