Heart stents could soon get an added boost: Viagra

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Future heart stents could be coated with the popular erectile dysfunction drug Viagra as a way to prevent blood clots and the narrowing of arteries, new research suggests.

The drug, known by the generic name sildenafil, was originally created as a medication to treat hypertension, but when a side effect included improving erectile dysfunction, Pfizer began selling it as Viagra. Now researchers at Seoul National University Hospital in South Korea are examining ways in which it can further be used for its original purpose. Their findings were presented July 10 at the American Heart Association’s Basic Cardiovascular Sciences conference in Portland, Oregon, according to a statement from the organization.

Results showed the drug was able to reduce clotting and restenosis, common side effects patients experience after receiving a stent. Sildenafil reduced blood platelet clumping by 30 percent and increased the action of enzyme protein kinase G, which prevents artery walls from thickening.

“This seems like a very interesting approach that could reduce both stent restenosis and stent thrombosis,” said Deepak L. Bhatt, MD, executive director of interventional cardiovascular programs at Brigham and Women’s Hospital Heart & Vascular Center in Boston, who was not involved in the study. “If validated in large, randomized human trials, this could be a major advance. But those large-scale trials would be necessary before getting too excited.”

And even if coating stents isn’t feasible, simply prescribing them orally to patients that received stents could be a beneficial, safer option than taking aspirin or antiplatelets.

“If similar results are found in clinical trials, sildenafil could be an ideal drug for coating drug-eluting stents or to give orally after stent implantation,” said Han-Mo Yang, MD, PhD, the lead author on the study and an associate professor of cardiology at Seoul National, in a statement. “It could be used in the clinical setting right away because the drug is already used in the real world for other purposes.”