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Viagra and OTC pills for erectile dysfunction: Do they work?

By: Medically reviewed by Joseph Brito III, MD — Written by Valencia Higuera — Updated on October 5, 2020
Source: Medical News Today
web site: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317090#otc-options

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common concern. Medications to treat this condition were previously available on prescription only, but some options are now available over the counter.

Viagra is the most well-known treatment for ED. There are, however, many other pills and tablets available on the market, including over-the-counter (OTC) treatments and dietary supplements.

Before trying these, it is important to know if they work and if they are safe for short- or long-term use.

This article will look at various treatment options for ED, including OTC pills, natural remedies, and prescription medications such as Viagra. It will also discuss the evidence and risks associated with these options.
OTC treatments
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ED is a medical condition, so the manufacturers of OTC products are not legally allowed to say that they treat ED. Instead, the manufacturers may market them as sexual enhancers. These pills aim to help people maintain an erection.

Although many pills are available for purchase, none have yet received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat ED.

The FDA do not recommend using OTC products for ED because they are not regulated for safety and may contain undisclosed ingredients or varying doses.

The following sections will look at the evidence behind four common OTC drugs marketed for treating ED.
Dehydroepiandrosterone

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is an important hormone for sexual function. It helps create sex hormones, including testosterone and estrogen. The adrenal gland naturally produces this hormone.

Levels of DHEA in the body reach their peak in a person’s 20s, then they gradually decrease with age.

According to a 2018 review, there is evidence to suggest that low levels of DHEA in the body can increase the chance of ED. However, studies have not convincingly shown that taking DHEA supplements helps with ED or improves sexual performance.

In fact, one 2013 review concluded that DHEA did not significantly improve male sexual function.58

Along with being touted for ED, DHEA has become a common supplement for boosting energy, enhancing immunity, slowing aging, and improving weight loss. There is not enough evidence to suggest that it is effective for any of these uses, however.
L-arginine

L-arginine is a common amino acid in men’s health supplements.

The body converts this amino acid into a chemical called nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps the blood vessels open wider, which improves blood flow.

Research from 2017 found that a significant number of people with ED have low levels of L-arginine.

However, the findings of this study are specific to males with poor blood flow through their arteries, which is known as arterial insufficiency. The findings did not apply to males without this issue.

A small-scale clinical trial from 2020 reported that taking 2.5 grams of L-arginine improved the symptoms of moderate ED.

That said, it is important to be cautious when taking L-arginine or similar supplements, as side effects can include nausea and stomach cramps. Supplements can also cause more serious side effects, such as low blood pressure and an increased risk of bleeding, when a person takes them alongside other medications.

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