Erectile dysfunction: oral pharmacotherapy options

Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2002 Sep;40(9):393-403. doi: 10.5414/cpp40393.


Erectile dysfunction (ED) (impotence) is a widespread, age-related problem, which affects 52% of men between 40 and 70 years of age. It is classified as psychogenic, organic, or mixed psychogenic and organic. ED is not a problem only of men, because the relationship between partners can also be disturbed. Therefore, adequate treatment of ED is needed and the most convenient and simplest way is oral drug therapy. Sildenafil, phosphodiesterase-(PDE)-5-selective inhibitor has been the drug of choice for patients with ED since it has been launched in March 1998. The results of various studies have confirmed the efficacy of the drug in men with ED of various etiologies, as well as the positive effect of sildenafil on the quality of a partnership. The most frequent adverse effects documented with sildenafil usage are headache, flushes, dyspepsia, visual disturbances and nasal congestion/rhinitis. These adverse effects are dose-related, usually transient and mild, with low withdrawal rate. Several studies performed recently have shown that sildenafil is a safe and effective treatment of ED in patients with cardiovascular disease, who do not take nitrates or nitrate donors concomitantly. Other oral medications for ED include apomorphine, phentolamine, yohimbine, trazodone, testosterone and new PDE-5 inhibitors in Phase III clinical trials, such as vardenafil and tadalafil. It is obvious, according to recent data, that the concept of PDE-5 inhibition has a central position in oral pharmacotherapy of ED. However, larger clinical studies of efficacy and safety should be carried out using most of the other above-mentioned oral agents and these may also gain a place in the therapy of ED. There are no studies directly comparing sildenafil and other treatments of ED or assessing its role in combination with other therapies. According to the present knowledge, the quality of life, not only of patients but also of their sexual partners, will be improved significantly with sildenafil usage and this is an important precondition for overall health ofboth. Sildenafil is thus a highly effective peroral treatment for ED in patients without contraindications for its use, which can be considered as the firstline therapy with an acceptable risk-benefit ratio.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Erectile Dysfunction* / classification
  • Erectile Dysfunction* / drug therapy
  • Erectile Dysfunction* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Imidazoles / adverse effects
  • Imidazoles / pharmacokinetics
  • Imidazoles / therapeutic use
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Male
  • Metabolic Clearance Rate
  • Middle Aged
  • Phentolamine / adverse effects
  • Phentolamine / pharmacokinetics
  • Phentolamine / therapeutic use
  • Piperazines* / adverse effects
  • Piperazines* / pharmacokinetics
  • Piperazines* / therapeutic use
  • Purines
  • Sildenafil Citrate
  • Sulfones
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Triazines
  • Vardenafil Dihydrochloride
  • Yohimbine / adverse effects
  • Yohimbine / pharmacokinetics
  • Yohimbine / therapeutic use


  • Imidazoles
  • Piperazines
  • Purines
  • Sulfones
  • Triazines
  • Yohimbine
  • Vardenafil Dihydrochloride
  • Sildenafil Citrate
  • Phentolamine