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Viagra Causes Blindness in Small Percentage of Users

May 27, 2005 | CNN

O'BRIEN: Well, you can almost hear the late night monologues writing themselves, but the FDA says it is serious about investigating more than three dozen reports of blindness among users of Viagra and some other wildly popular erectile dysfunction drugs, 43 to be precise, out of the millions of men who have used those drugs since '98.

Details now from CNN medical correspondent, Christy Feig.

CHRISTY FEIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The FDA says they are investigating about 38 cases of blindness in men taking Viagra. This type of blindness is called nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy. It's basically a stroke of the eye. The blood flow is cut off to the optic nerve, injuring the nerve and causing permanent vision loss.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota say in 14 cases they've seen, the men were between the ages of 50 and 69 years old. And almost all of them had health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol or a history of smoking.

In those cases the men lost either the central part of their vision or their peripheral vision. It was not total vision loss, but it was permanent.

Pfizer, the maker of Viagra, released a statement saying, "There is no evidence that NAION occurred more frequently in men taking Viagra than in men of similar age and health of men who did not take Viagra."

In an FDA statement, they say, "Viagra is safe and effective as labeled. There are no changes to the overall risk-benefit profile. Patients should talk to their doctor about using the drug and whether the drug is right for them."

There are two other impotence drugs on the market, Cialis and Levitra. The makers of Cialis say they have had four cases of NAION and have already changed their labels. The makers of Levitra have reported one case.

Christy Feig, CNN, Washington.


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