Sildenafil citrate, sold as Viagra, Revatio and under various other trade names, is a drug used to treat erectile dysfunction and pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). It was originally discovered by Pfizer scientists Andrew Bell, David Brown, and Nicholas Terrett. It acts by inhibiting cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5), an enzyme that promotes degradation of cGMP, which regulates blood flow in the penis. Since becoming available in 1998, sildenafil has been the prime treatment for erectile dysfunction; its primary competitors on the market are tadalafil (Cialis) and vardenafil (Levitra).
In clinical trials, the most common adverse effects of sildenafil use included headache, flushing, dyspepsia, nasal congestion and impaired vision, including photophobia and blurred vision. Some sildenafil users have complained of seeing everything tinted blue (cyanopsia). Some complained of blurriness and loss of peripheral vision. In July 2005, the FDA found that sildenafil could lead to vision impairment in rare cases and a number of studies have linked sildenafil use with nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy. Rare but serious adverse effects found through postmarketing surveillance include priapism, severe hypotension, myocardial infarction (heart attack), ventricular arrhythmias, stroke, increased intraocular pressure, and sudden hearing loss. As a result of these postmarketing reports, in October 2007, the FDA announced that the labeling for all PDE5 inhibitors, including sildenafil, required a more prominent warning of the potential risk of sudden hearing loss.
Care should be exercised by patients that are also taking protease inhibitors for the treatment of HIV. Protease inhibitors inhibit the metabolism of sildenafil, effectively multiplying the plasma levels of sildenafil, increasing the incidence and severity of side effects. It is recommended that patients using protease inhibitors limit their use of sildenafil to no more than one 25 mg dose every 48 hours. Other drugs that interfere with the metabolism of sildenafil include erythromycin and cimetidine, both of which can also lead to prolonged plasma half life levels.
Concomitant use of sildenafil and an alpha blocker may lead to low blood pressure, but this effect does not occur if they are taken at least four hours apart.