This may get you to stand up and take notice. A nurse in the U.K. reportedly credits Viagra for saving her from severe, life-threatening Covid-19. Yes, that Viagra, the one typically used for erectile dysfunction. Such news has already helped the word “Viagra” trend on Twitter with tweets such as the following from Robert M. Wachter, MD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF):

Indeed, Dr. Wachter, anything is possible. But is there any hard evidence that Viagra, otherwise known as sildenafil, can serve as a treatment for severe Covid-19?

Wachter’s tweet included an article from The New York Post by Yaron Steinbuch. Steinbuch relayed the story of Monica Almeida, a 37 year old nurse who tested positive for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in October. Almeida’s condition deteriorated to the point that she was admitted to a hospital ICU and placed in medically-induced coma on November 16. When things looked bleak, her doctors then reportedly tried the little blue pill. Sometime thereafter, Almeida, who was apparently fully vaccinated prior to the infection, emerged from her coma on December 14 and returned home on Christmas eve.

The New York Post story included a quote from Almeida telling The Sun, “It was definitely the Viagra that saved me. Within 48 hours it opened up my airwaves and my lungs started to respond.” She added, “If you think how the drug works, it expands your blood vessels. I have asthma and my air sacks needed a little help.”

Take a wild little blue pill guess as to who else reported on this case. Yes, FOX News host Tucker Carlson had covered this story on his show “Tucker Carlson Tonightalong with a “this-isn’t-exaggerating-anything-is-it” headline that said “Little Blue Miracle” hovering over his left shoulder:

As you can see, in the segment, Carlson said, “Who thought Viagra would save us from the pandemic?” Marc Siegel, MD, FOX News Medical Contributor, who joined Carlson on the show concluded the segment by saying, “I’m getting ready to try it out.” All right, maybe that last statement was TMI. Regardless, did Carlson and Siegel seem a little too happy to see this news about Viagra? Before you make 2022 an “erection” year or even a mid-term “erection” year, take a closer look at what specifically was said on the segment.

Siegel described how Viagra can “improve blood flow to the lungs. It improves oxygen in the lungs.” He went on to say that “it makes something called nitric oxide. Now nitric oxide is something that the Covid virus decreases and Viagra increases.” He first cited a study from Chile on the use of Viagra and then quickly moved to citing several studies that supposedly showed that “if you inhaled nitric oxide, you lungs did a lot better with Covid.” He didn’t really provide details on the studies such as the journal publications that may have described them, the designs of the studies, the number people in each study, or the studies’ limitations. Nevertheless he concluded that “I think this is the beginning of something and further studies are going on, and I think this is a potential treatment.”

Whoa. Potential treatment? Isn’t that a premature declaration? As you know (or maybe you don’t know), anything premature can leave a messy situation and people quite confused. Premature declarations have been a problem throughout the pandemic. For example, various people have prematurely declared medications such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin to be “treatments” for Covid-19 way before enough studies had been completed. And apparently, premature declarations may be a groin or growing problem with Viagra too:

So you’ve got to be very careful about throwing around the “t” word before there is enough scientific evidence.

The risk is having people somehow believe that such unproven “treatments” can be taken in lieu of vaccination or other evidence-based Covid-19 precautions such as face mask wearing as this tweet warned:

Or leave the mistaken impression that there is a new “cure” to Covid-19:

One can imagine how some men might be more willing to pound Viagra, so to speak, than wear face masks. Taking Viagra regularly ain’t like eating watermelon regularly. It can have side effects such dizziness, headache, flushing, stomach upset, and vision problems and be especially problematic for those with existing heart issues. Plus, you thought noses sticking out of face masks was a problem. Imagine what might happen with Viagra.

So what about that study from Chile that Siegel mentioned? Well, it was conducted at the Hospital Naval Almirante Nef and Universidad Andres Bello in Chile and described in a publication in the journal Critical Care. The trial included 40 patients who were diagnosed with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection and had abnormalities in the blood flow to their lungs. Half of these study participants (20 patients) received sildenafil, 25 mg by mouth three times a day for seven days. The other half received placebo capsules in the same manner. The median age of the study participants was 57 years old. The majority (33 patients) were male.

The research team didn’t find significant differences in the subsequent blood flow and oxygen patterns in the lungs of those who received sildenafil versus those who received the placebo. However, four of the patients in the placebo group eventually required mechanical ventilation compared to none in the sildenafil group. Ultimately, those in the sildenafil group had significantly shorter lengths of stays in the hospital than those in the placebo group (a median of 9 days versus a median of 12 days). There was no info on whether it was more difficult to turn patients around on their beds though.

Now, 20 isn’t a big number unless you are talking about the number of ferrets in your pants. It’s too few patients to say whether the shorter length of stays were actually due to the sildenafil. Many other factors could have been at play. Remember, the Covid-19 vaccine trials included tens of thousands of patients. Furthermore, this was just one study. Basing medical advice just on a single study would be like getting married after just one date. More studies are needed to confirm the findings.

Sure you could erect a plausible mechanisms as to how sildenafil may help those with severe lung problems from Covid-19. It could potentially improve blood flow to your lungs and in turn the ability of your lungs to get oxygen into your blood stream to go to the rest of your body. That’s because Viagra doesn’t act on your penis simply by offering encouraging words such as “you can do it”, “up, up, and away”, or “you really are good in bed.” It inhibits an an enzyme called phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE 5) that normally breaks down nitric oxide. This then allows for higher levels of nitric oxide, which causes the blood vessels in your penis to dilate or expand and thus accommodate more blood. The thought is that Viagra may be able to dilate the blood vessels in your lungs in a similar manner. Some preliminary studies have suggested that such vasodilation could be the mechanisms by which inhaling nitric oxide may possibly help those with severe Covid-19-induced lung problems.

Again all of these are preliminary findings. Neither sildenafil nor nitric oxide have been established as safe and effective treatments for severe Covid-19 yet. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Covid-19 Treatment Guidelines still recommend “against the routine use of inhaled nitric oxide” for “mechanically ventilated adults with Covid-19 and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).” Keep in mind that inhaling nitric oxide isn’t a totally benign thing either, It can result in blurred vision, confusion, dizziness, lightheadedness, sweating, weakness, bluish lips or skin, chest discomfort, or breathing difficulties. You can overdose on nitric oxide as well.

Plus, none of this means that either Viagra or nitric oxide can replace getting vaccinated against Covid-19 and taking other Covid-19 precautions such as wearing face masks. Right now, the potential with these medications, if any, is for those hospitalized with severe Covid-19. So don’t tell your significant other, “oh, it’s to protect against Covid, but by the way, since it is there.” Don’t convince yourself that you have stiff protection against Covid-19 just because you are taking Viagra regularly.



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