Most men with erectile dysfunction don't seem to get treatment

May 6, 2013 by Kathleen Doheny, Healthday Reporter
Most men with erectile dysfunction don't seem to get treatment
In study of 6 million ED patients, 75 percent either didn't receive or fill prescriptions.

(HealthDay)—Never mind the commercials with men talking freely to their doctor about their erectile dysfunction, taking a prescription for treatment to the pharmacy and settling in for a romantic evening.

Despite a wide range of treatment options, most men with erectile dysfunction (ED) don't get treated, according to a new study.

"ED treatments, overall, are underutilized," said Dr. Brian Helfand, an assistant clinical professor of urology at Northshore University Health System and the University of Chicago. "Only 25 percent of men are actually treated."

Helfand led the study, which looked at the medical records of more than 6 million men with an ED diagnosis. He is due to present his findings Monday at the American Urological Association annual meeting, in San Diego.

The study was funded by the Havana Day Dreamers Foundation (which promotes men's health), the Goldstein Fund in Male Pelvic Health and the SIU Urology Endowment Fund.

Helfand used an insurance claims database and looked for the for erectile dysfunction from June 2010 through July 2011. He found 6.2 million men aged 30 and older who received a diagnosis of erectile dysfunction. ED is defined as an inability to maintain an erection satisfactory for .

He then looked to see how many filled a prescription. Patients were considered treated if they filled a prescription for an erectile dysfunction drug such as Viagra (sildenafil) or Cialis (tadalafil), drugs called that are given by injection or urethral suppositories, or androgen (hormone) replacement.

He considered them untreated if they received a diagnosis of erectile dysfunction but did not fill a prescription.

He took into account, too, the men's ages and other health problems.

Even though erectile dysfunction is likely to become more common with age, he actually found older men the least likely to be treated. Only about 18 percent of men aged 65 and above were treated.

When Helfand looked to see what bearing other health conditions might have had on treatment, he found those with prostate cancer were least likely to be treated. Only 15 percent were.

The study didn't have information on why the men went untreated, he said. But he speculates there are probably several reasons.

The undertreatment, Helfand said, is probably a result of doctors often not offering the prescription or patients getting a prescription but not filling it at the pharmacy.

"Men may not be bothered by it," he said. Or a doctor may not write a prescription because he may not think the man is a candidate, or perhaps they didn't respond to erectile dysfunction treatment in the past.

Other reasons, he said, could include costs and embarrassment.

For men, Helfand said, the message is: "There are available therapies out there. These can be useful if you have ED."

An expert who reviewed the study but was not involved said he isn't sure if it mirrors real life.

"To conclude from this study that three-fourths of the men who carry a diagnosis of ED are not treated doesn't fit with what we see in clinical practice," said Dr. Jacob Rajfer, a professor of urology with the David Geffen School of Medicine, at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"In order to determine how many men were treated or not treated, you need to interview the people," Rajfer said.

Men might get to the pharmacy, see the cost of the erectile dysfunction drug, and decide to go out of the country to get it and save money, or might get it by mail order, Rajfer said.

Another expert discussed possible barriers to men getting these drugs.

"Cost might be a big issue," said Dr. Ajay Nangia, an associate professor of urology at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He is familiar with the study findings.

Costs vary, but some drugs are about $4 a pill.

"It's becoming much more open to talk about this stuff," Nangia said. Even so, some may still be embarrassed.

In an effort to combat sales of counterfeit Viagra online, drugmaker Pfizer will sell the drug directly to patients with prescriptions via its website, the reported Monday.

Because the new study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Explore further: Most men with erectile dysfunction remain untreated, scientists say

More information: To learn more about erectile dysfunction, visit the American Urological Association.

Related Stories

Most men with erectile dysfunction remain untreated, scientists say

March 19, 2013
Despite the high erectile dysfunction (ED) prevalence most patients receive no treatment, according to a new US study, presented at the 28th Annual EAU Congress. Undertreatment of ED continues to be common, even though the ...

Testosterone gel fails to boost Viagra's effects

November 19, 2012
(HealthDay)—Men who have erectile dysfunction and low testosterone may get no extra benefit from adding the hormone to their Viagra prescription, a new study suggests.

Male bowel cancer patients need more information about erectile dysfunction

October 18, 2011
Male bowel cancer patients are very likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED) after treatment and yet the majority are not receiving adequate information about the condition, according to a study published in the British ...

Recommended for you

A multimodal intervention to reduce one of the most common healthcare-acquired infections

March 16, 2018
Surgical site infections are the most frequent health care-associated infections in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this type of infection can affect up to one-third of surgical patients ...

New imaging approach offers unprecedented views of staph infection

March 14, 2018
Eric Skaar, PhD, MPH, marvels at the images on his computer screen—3-D molecular-level views of infection in a mouse. "I'm pretty convinced that these are the most advanced images in infection biology," said Skaar, Ernest ...

Parasitic worms need their intestinal microflora too

March 14, 2018
Scientists at The University of Manchester have cast new light on a little understood group of worm infections, which collectively afflicts 1 in 4 people, mainly children—in the developing the world.

Compound scores key win in battle against antibiotic resistance

March 14, 2018
Researchers at Oregon State University have made a key advance in the fight against drug resistance, crafting a compound that genetically neutralizes a widespread bacterial pathogen's ability to thwart antibiotics.

Helicobacter creates immune system blind spot

March 13, 2018
The gastric bacterium H. pylori colonizes the stomachs of around half the human population and can lead to the development of gastric cancer. It is usually acquired in childhood and persists life-long, despite a strong inflammatory ...

Taking the jab (and the chill) out of vaccination

March 13, 2018
Scientists in Cairns (Australia) and Cardiff (Wales) have taken an important first step towards solving two problems that hinder access to vaccines: they need to be kept cool, and no one likes needles.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.