Sildenafil, sold as the brand name Viagra among others, is a medication used to treat erectile dysfunction and pulmonary arterial hypertension.It is unclear if it is effective for treating sexual dysfunction in women. It is taken by mouth or injection into a vein. Onset is typically within 20 minutes and lasts for about 2 hours
Common side effects include headaches, heartburn, and flushed skin.Caution is advised in those with cardiovascular disease. Rare but serious side effects include a prolonged erection that can lead to damage to the penis, vision problems, and hearing loss. Sildenafil should not be taken by people on nitrates such as nitroglycerin (glycerin trinitrate), as this may result in a serious drop in blood pressure.
Sildenafil acts by blocking phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5), an enzyme that promotes breakdown of cGMP, which regulates blood flow in the penis. It requires sexual arousal, however, to work.It also results in dilation of the blood vessels in the lungs.
Pfizer originally discovered the medication in 1989 while looking for a treatment for heart related chest pain. It was approved for medical use in the United States and Europe in 1998.In the United States about 2 million prescriptions were written for sildenafil in 2016. In 2017 it became available as a generic medication.In the United Kingdom it is available over the counter. As of 2018 in the United States the wholesale cost is less than US per dose. Sildenafil protects cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) from degradation by cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) in the corpus cavernosum. Nitric oxide (NO) in the corpus cavernosum of the penis binds to guanylate cyclase receptors, which results in increased levels of cGMP, leading to smooth muscle relaxation (vasodilation) of the intimal cushions of the helicine arteries. This smooth muscle relaxation leads to vasodilation and increased inflow of blood into the spongy tissue of the penis, causing an erection. Robert F. Furchgott, Ferid Murad, and Louis Ignarro won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1998 for their independent study of the metabolic pathway of nitric oxide in smooth muscle vasodilation.
Sildenafil is a potent and selective inhibitor of cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5), which is responsible for degradation of cGMP in the corpus cavernosum. The molecular structure of sildenafil is similar to that of cGMP and acts as a competitive binding agent of PDE5 in the corpus cavernosum, resulting in more cGMP and better erections. Without sexual stimulation, and therefore lack of activation of the NO/cGMP system, sildenafil should not cause an erection. Other drugs that operate by the same mechanism include tadalafil (Cialis) and vardenafil (Levitra).
Sildenafil is broken down in the liver by hepatic metabolism using cytochrome p450 enzymes, mainly CYP450 3A4(major route), but also by CYP2C9 (minor route) hepatic isoenzymes. The major product of metabolisation by these enzymes is N-desmethylated sildenafil, which is metabolised further. This metabolite also has an affinity for the PDE receptors, about 40% of that of sildenafil. Thus, the metabolite is responsible for about 20% of sildenafil’s action. Sildenafil is excreted as metabolites predominantly in the feces (about 80% of administered oral dose) and to a lesser extent in the urine (around 13% of the administered oral dose). If taken with a high-fat meal, absorption is reduced; the time taken to reach the maximum plasma concentration increases by around one hour, and the maximum concentration itself is decreased by nearly one-third.