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Caught Between A Rock And A Hard Place

Posted Mar 08 2011 8:40am
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are used commonly without much second thought.  They're widely available over-the-counter without prescription at just half the prescription strength.

Members of this class include naprosyn, ibuprofen, and ubiquitous aspirin, amongst others.  We know that taking aspirin daily can prevent heart attacks & strokes in those at risk, in exchange for a small but greater risk of bleeding in the stomach & brain.  All NSAIDs, while quite useful for pain relief and potentially for fever control, can also wreck havoc with the kidneys in addition to irritating the stomach.

As of last week, we can now add erectile dysfunction to the growing list of side effects as published in the Journal of Urology .  The authors evaluated 80,966 men between 45 and 69 years old and divided them based upon NSAID use (both self-reported & by pharmacy data).  After allowing for the usual adjustments, eg age, chronic conditions, etc, NSAID use was associated with 38% higher risk of erectile dysfunction.

So where do we go from here?  Remember that this study is observational in nature.  It can only prove association, not cause & effect.  It's good for generating hypotheses but not for demonstrating proof.  Therefore, if you need to take your NSAID, continue to do so.  But the best piece of advice is to discuss this study with your family physician in order to understand its implications for you.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, similar findings were published in May 2006 .

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