Overall cardiovascular profile of sildenafil citrate

Am J Cardiol. 1999 Mar 4;83(5A):35C-44C. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9149(99)00046-6.


Sildenafil, a selective inhibitor of phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5), is the first in a new class of orally effective treatments for erectile dysfunction. During sexual stimulation, the cavernous nerves release nitric oxide (NO), which induces cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) formation and smooth muscle relaxation in the corpus cavernosum. Sildenafil facilitates the erectile process during sexual stimulation by inhibiting PDE5 and thus blocking the breakdown of cGMP. Sildenafil alone can cause mean peak reductions in systolic/diastolic blood pressure of 10/7 mm Hg that are not dose related, whereas the heart rate is unchanged. Sildenafil and nitrates both increase cGMP levels in the systemic circulation but at different points along the NO-cGMP pathway. The combination is contraindicated because they synergistically potentiate vasodilation and may cause excessive reductions in blood pressure. Erectile dysfunction is a significant medical condition that shares numerous risk factors with ischemic heart disease, and hence a substantial overlap exists between these patient groups. From extensive clinical trials, the most commonly reported cardiovascular adverse events in patients treated with sildenafil were headache (16%), flushing (10%), and dizziness (2%). The incidences of hypotension, orthostatic hypotension, and syncope and the rate of discontinuation of treatment due to adverse events were <2% and were the same in patients taking sildenafil and those taking placebo. Retrospective analysis of the concomitant use of antihypertensive medications (beta blockers, alpha blockers, diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, and calcium antagonists) in patients taking sildenafil did not indicate an increase in the reports of adverse events or significant episodes of hypotension compared with patients treated with sildenafil alone. In clinical trials, the incidence of serious cardiovascular adverse events, including stroke and myocardial infarction, was the same for patients treated with sildenafil or placebo. Concurrent disease states, such as renal or hepatic impairment, or concomitant use of inhibitors of the cytochrome P450 isozyme CYP3A4 could increase systemic exposure to sildenafil. Since the US market launch in April 1998, monitoring of spontaneous adverse event reports in association with sildenafil has demonstrated a pattern that is generally consistent with the experience observed during clinical development, with the exception of infrequent reports of priapism. In conclusion, extensive clinical testing has shown that overall treatment with sildenafil for up to 1 year is well tolerated and is associated with a low incidence of adverse events that result in discontinuation of treatment in <3% of patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 3',5'-Cyclic-GMP Phosphodiesterases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects*
  • Cardiovascular System / drug effects*
  • Cardiovascular System / enzymology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Drug Interactions
  • Drug Synergism
  • Erectile Dysfunction / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Piperazines / adverse effects
  • Piperazines / pharmacology*
  • Purines
  • Reference Values
  • Sildenafil Citrate
  • Sulfones
  • Time Factors
  • Vasodilation / drug effects*


  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors
  • Piperazines
  • Purines
  • Sulfones
  • Sildenafil Citrate
  • 3',5'-Cyclic-GMP Phosphodiesterases