Dr. Dubin on the direct-to-consumer market for erectile dysfunction medications

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“However, what direct to consumer does provide is convenience and privacy. Men's health has a huge stigma on it,” says Justin M. Dubin, MD.

In this video, Justin M. Dubin, MD, discusses the rationale for the study, “Beyond the prescription: trends and challenges in erectile dysfunction medications among young adult men,” for which he served as the senior author. Dubin is a urologist focused on men’s health at Memorial Healthcare System in South Florida.

Video Transcript:

We were interested in this study because erectile dysfunction is the most prevalent sexual dysfunction that men have; about 50% of men at some point in their lives will have erectile dysfunction. But we have seen an increasing trend in erectile dysfunction in younger men. Statistically, usually it's about 40% in their 40s, 50% in their 50s, 60% in their 60s, 70% in their 70s have erectile dysfunction. Anecdotally, I have seen a lot of young men, and other providers who are in the men's health space have seen a lot of young men, for erectile dysfunction. So, we were interested in this study, at least capturing first off, the prevalence of men under the age of 40 [with] erectile dysfunction. But more importantly, with the rise of direct to consumer, we were interested in seeing how many of our patients are using them.

I will tell you, just from our experiences, direct to consumer care has become incredibly popular amongst men. It is one of the leading resources for men's health, especially for erectile dysfunction. Direct to consumer does have some benefits; they've done a really excellent job of destigmatizing conversations around erectile dysfunction. I mean, you see advertisements for this stuff literally everywhere. I often see patients who are coming to me, and they're saying, "Doc, I've tried Cialis, I've tried Viagra at X or Y company. And now I'm interested in coming and talking to you about it."

There are some risks, of course, with direct to consumer. Obviously, you're just giving a medication; it's theoretically potentially a band-aid for something that you may be missing. There was a great study, I believe it was out of UCLA, where they identified that there is a good portion of men [for whom] you would miss a diagnosis of obesity, infertility, low testosterone, diabetes, [or] high blood pressure that you would otherwise catch if they came into the clinic and were assessed by an actual doctor. However, what direct to consumer does provide is convenience and privacy. Men's health has a huge stigma on it.

So, what we decided to do was we surveyed men under the age of 40. We asked them a whole bunch of questions, including giving them an IIEF, which is a validated score for erectile dysfunction. We asked them where they get their erectile dysfunction meds if they've ever taken them, where they prefer to get them, what they prioritize in making that decision, and why they're taking the medications. That was why we did the study. We wanted to see if people were truly using these direct-to-consumer products as a gateway of getting into the men's health space.

This transcription has been edited for clarity.

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