HEALTH

New studies find that impotence drugs used by males are effective in females

BY Michael Johnsen

AUGUSTA, Ga. New studies indicate the three drugs used to treat male impotence also appear to work in females, albeit a little differently, and should give the scientific community pause to take a second look at their potential in the 40% of women who report sexual dysfunction, researchers reported Friday.

In one of the first studies of the effect of phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors – Viagra (sildenafil citrate), Levitra (vardenafil) and Cialis (tadalafil) — on the pudendal arteries that supply the penis, vagina and clitoris the blood needed to produce a satisfying sexual experience, Medical College of Georgia researchers showed the drugs relax the artery in male and female rats.

“It shows the drugs need to be investigated more for women and small alterations could make these compounds more effective for women living with these disorders,” stated Kyan Allahdadi, postdoctoral fellow in physiology at MCG.

He’s presenting the findings during the 122nd Annual Meeting of the American Physiological Society held in New Orleans April 18 through 22 as part of the Experimental Biology 2009 scientific conference.

Although there was talk years ago of a pink pill for women to parallel the blue Viagra for men, early clinical trials found essentially no response in women.

MCG researchers decided to look again, first giving a drug to constrict the internal pudendal arteries in male and female rats — as they would be in a non-erect state — then giving doses of each impotency drug to see the impact. The arteries from male rats displayed a relatively standard concentration-dependent relaxation – the more drugs they got, the more they relaxed — while in females’ arteries, there was an initial relaxation then an odd oscillation between relaxation and contraction with subsequent dosing.

While they don’t fully understand the swing, the unique female response likely provides more evidence that sexual function is more complex in females, offered Clinton Webb, chair of the MCG Department of Physiology and a study author. Scientists define female sexual dysfunction as a multifaceted disorder that includes anatomical, psychological, physiological and social-interpersonal aspects.

MCG researchers have shown part of that complexity may be the smooth muscle cells in the internal pudendal arteries of females communicate, agreeing to contract and relax, while male smooth muscle cells make independent decisions to just relax.

They found one other distinction: females were more sensitive to Viagra, while males were most sensitive to Levitra.

Previous studies on the effectiveness of these drugs focused on the cavernosal tissue, or penis. The internal pudendal artery actually feeds the penile artery which is buried deep in the penis where numerous caverns enable it to be flaccid when not engorged with blood. Physical stimulation of the area causes the tissue, endothelial cells and nerves to release nitric oxide, a powerful dilator of blood vessels. The system works pretty much the same way in the vagina and clitoris.

“If you have too much constriction or not enough relaxation to allow blood to go through the internal pudendal artery, you are not going to get the net effect of an erection,” Allahdadi said. “That is why we wanted to begin to characterize what was going on in this blood vessel.”

The MCG scientists and others are beginning to believe sexual dysfunction provides an early, or at least visible, clue of vascular disease. Vascular problems, which can result from diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and the like, are a major cause of sexual dysfunction in men and women.

“What we have seen preliminarily is there is big difference in responsiveness in these arteries. The diabetic pudendal arteries are much more sensitive to contraction,” Allahdadi said.

For future research, they will look at how drugs like Viagra impact that contraction.

In fact, MCG scientists suspect one reason that many of the women participants in previous studies of Viagra did not seem to respond is because they did not have vascular problems that could have been circumvented by a drug that relaxes arteries so blood can enter. In men with a healthy vasculature, the drugs likely would still produce a longer erection.

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FMI to present recession spending trends report at conference

BY Michael Johnsen

ARLINGTON, Va. The Food Marketing Institute will release its latest research on how the recession impacts consumer shopping at the supermarket and how that behavior affects retailer sales and operations at the FMI Future Connect conference in Dallas, the association announced Wednesday.

Today’s consumer is enormously focused on price and value, FMI stated. The Trends 2009 report provides insights into the extent this new thriftiness is impacting grocery shopping, trip frequency and spending. The survey covers money-saving measures in great depth including a wide range of measures both pre-trip and in the store.

Many also fear the negative impact of the recession on health and wellness. Trends will address shoppers’ interest in products that promote good health and nutrition and the extent to which they are succeeding in eating healthfully.

The food recalls of the past year have tested consumer confidence in the nation’s food supply. FMI research will show whether consumers think the food they buy in supermarkets and restaurants is safe and whom they trust to sell safe products.

The Speaks report will detail sales, same-store sales and profits for the retail food industry and feature an in-depth analysis of profit leaders. Speaks will provide retailer insights about private brands and the advertising changes they are making due to the recession.

Speaks will also look at the sustainability strategies retailers are putting in place and how they are incorporating health and wellness initiatives throughout the store.FMI’s U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2009 and The Food Retailing Industry Speaks 2009, two reports on consumer trends and retailer insights, will be presented by FMI president and CEO Leslie Sarasin, during a special session at Future Connect, The Food Retailing Industry Speaks, on May 4 at 1:15 p.m.

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Johnson & Johnson shifts acquisitions into consumer division

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. Johnson & Johnson has decided to fold a pair of acquisitions made in November, HealthMedia and Human Performance Institute, into its existing consumer division as opposed to creating a separate “wellness” division, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Both companies work to improve employee productivity or lifestyle health habits.

Earlier last year, J&J CEO William Weldon had suggested a wellness division might grow into a $20 billion annual business for the company.

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