Viagra: The Little Blue Pill That Could
Medical Author: Benjamin Wedro, MD, FAAEM
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Once upon a time, there was a little blue pill. Its inventors were trying to treat heart diseaseand prevent heart attacks and found that the little blue pill could dilate blood vessels. The theory was that anginaor chest paincould be decreased when more red blood cells carrying oxygen were delivered to heart muscle cells through the dilated coronary vessels. Though good in theory, since it works for nitroglycerin, clinically, the little blue pill wasn't very effective.
The little blue pill wasn't very specific as to where it dilated blood vessels. Not only were heart vessels dilated, but so were blood vessels in other places, and this side effect became its claim to fame. Viagrahit the market as the first treatment for erectile dysfunction and was a superstar.
It was also becoming a superstar in the athletic world. Studies with cyclists and mountain climbers found that at high altitude, the little blue pill dilated blood vessels in the lung and allowed more oxygen to be extracted from the air, increasing the oxygen concentration in the bloodstream. This translated into faster and stronger training. All of a sudden, the little blue pill moved from the bedroom to the playing field...please insert your own performance-enhancing joke here.
And so we have the latest revelation that baseball players are loading up on Viagra. No big surprise, since Viagra has been a hit on the pro cyclingtour for a while, and baseball usually lags behind by a couple of years. History reminds us of anabolic steroidsand growth hormone.