When it gets chilly, but not freezing, my right index finger starts to turn white and numb. I’m told this is Raynaud’s syndrome, and the numbness goes away without much disruption to my life.
But Raynaud’s phenomenon is a whole different problem: structural damage to the blood vessels that can be serious enough to cause ulcers and gangrene. Raynaud’s phenomenon is common in people with scleroderma, and it can be tough to treat, Dr. Vikas Agarwal, of Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, India, said at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Rheumatology
Dr. Agarwal and some fellow rheumatology researchers theorized that a vasodilator that improves blood flow in one extremity might do the same for other extremities. They randomized 53 patients (50 of whom were women) to a placebo or tadalafil (Cialis), a vasodilator better know for its use in treating erectile dysfunction. All participants reported at least four episodes of Raynaud’s per week despite taking other vasodilators.
So, did it work? In this study, 20 mg of tadalafil every other day for 8 weeks significantly improved the frequency, duration, and severity of the Raynaud’s episodes.
But wait, there’s more. At the start of the study, 18 patients in the tadalafil group and 13 in the placebo group had ulcers on their fingers. At the end of the study, these ulcers had healed in 14 of the 18 patients in the tadalafil group, vs. 5 of the 13 patients in the placebo group.
This is a small study, and none of the researchers disclosed any financial conflicts. Will we see more research if some erectile dysfunction drug makers decide to expand their horizons to a different population?
–Heidi Splete (on twitter @hsplete)