Cardiovascular Risk, Drugs and Erectile Function–A Systematic Analysis

Aims: Erectile dysfunction is a major problem with an increasing prevalence in cardiovascular high‐risk patients due to its association with cardiovascular risk factors. Drugs used for evidence‐based treatment of cardiovascular diseases have been reported to decrease erectile function, but possible mechanisms are poorly characterised.

Methods: MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cochrane Registry search were performed including manuscripts until January 2010. Searching terms are: ‘erectile dysfunction or impotence’ in combination with ‘ACE‐inhibitors’, ‘angiotensin’, ‘beta‐blockers’, ‘calcium antagonist’ and ‘diuretics’. Animal studies, letters, reviews, case‐reports and manuscripts other than English language and trials dealing with combination treatment are excluded.

Results: Analysis of literature revealed five epidemiological trials evaluating the effect of different cardiovascular drugs on erectile function. There were eight trials evaluating the effect of beta‐blockers, five trials evaluating the effect of ace‐inhibitors or angiotensin‐receptor‐blockers and one trial evaluating the effect of diuretics on erectile function. Results of these trials demonstrate that only thiazide diuretics and beta‐blockers except nebivolol may adversely influence erectile function. ACE‐inhibitors, angiotensin‐receptor‐blockers and calcium‐channel‐blockers are reported to have no relevant or even a positive effect on erectile function.

Conclusion: Inappropriate patients’ concerns about adverse effects of cardiovascular drugs on erectile function might limit the use of important medications in cardiovascular high‐risk patients. Knowledge about the effects of drug‐treatments on erectile function and about the major role of the endothelium in penile function might improve patients’ adherence to evidence based treatment of cardiovascular diseases.