Despite a high prevalence of erectile dysfunction (ED), only a quarter of men with the condition receive treatment for it, according to a recently published study.

A team led by Kevin T. McVary, MD, of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield, used a commercial insurance database to identify 6.2 million men diagnosed with ED during a 12-month period ending June 2011.

Men who filled a prescription for a phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitor, injection or urethral prostaglandins, or androgen replacement therapy (ART) were considered treated and those who received an ED diagnosis but did not fill a prescription were considered untreated. Only 25.4% of the cohort was treated during the study period, Dr. McVary and his colleagues reported online ahead of print in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.

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Among the treated men, the most commonly prescribed medical therapies were PDE5 inhibitors (75.2%), followed by ART either as monotherapy or in combination therapy (30.6%). Men older than 60 years were significantly less likely to be treated than men aged 50–59 years. Treatment frequency did not vary as a function of the number of co-morbidities, according to the researchers.

To the investigators’ knowledge, this study is the first to report the frequency of associated ED medical therapies in a relatively large patient population.

“It has previously been assumed that a significant percentage of men suffer from ED and remain undiagnosed unless specifically questioned about this problem,” the researchers wrote. “Putatively, the most common reason for under-reporting of ED is patient embarrassment or decreased bother/severity. However, it has been shown that once the topic is initiated, patients become willing to discuss their potency issues.”