Iloprost. A review of its pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic properties, and therapeutic potential in peripheral vascular disease, myocardial ischaemia and extracorporeal circulation procedures

Drugs. 1992 Jun;43(6):889-924. doi: 10.2165/00003495-199243060-00008.


Iloprost is an analogue of epoprostenol (prostacyclin; PGI2; a potent but short-lived prostanoid mainly produced in the vascular endothelium) and mimics the pharmacodynamic properties of this compound, namely: inhibition of platelet aggregation, vasodilatation and, as yet ill-defined, cytoprotection. Improved metabolic and, in particular, chemical stability enhance the clinical utility of iloprost. When administered as an intermittent intravenous infusion at less than or equal to 2 ng/kg/min for 2 to 4 weeks, iloprost reduced rest pain and improved ulcer healing in 40 to 60% of patients with critical leg ischaemia, including diabetic patients, and delayed amputation in the majority of responding individuals. Similar benefits have been seen in thromboangiitis obliterans and, in patients with severe Raynaud's phenomenon, shorter courses of therapy reduced the frequency, intensity and duration of ischaemic episodes for at least 6 weeks. The very few comparative trials reported to date (i.e. vs nifedipine in Raynaud's phenomenon; vs low-dose aspirin in thromboangiitis obliterans) have favoured iloprost, but comparisons with more established agents are needed to assess this drug's value in less severe forms of peripheral ischaemia, such as intermittent claudication. At present, iloprost is administered intravenously and this is a limitation to treatment. The potent, rapidly reversible antiplatelet activity of iloprost suits it for use in extracorporeal circulation and for the intraoperative management of heparin-induced platelet activation. Although results in animal models of ischaemic myocardial injury are encouraging, preliminary clinical experience in patients with myocardial ischaemia or infarction has been disappointing. Most patients tolerate iloprost infusion rates of up to 2 ng/kg/min. Headache and flushing are extremely common and are the suggested end-point of dose titration, as higher doses are associated with a significant incidence of gastrointestinal distress and, ultimately, hypotension. Thus, iloprost provides a pharmacotherapeutic option for patients with severe peripheral vascular disease, a condition for which few alternative drug therapies exist. Its potent but short-lived effects make it well-suited to certain therapeutic niches such as the management of intraoperative platelet activation. Prostanoid analogues have far-reaching therapeutic potential and further experience with iloprost will no doubt help to define its clinical applications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Coronary Disease / drug therapy*
  • Extracorporeal Circulation*
  • Humans
  • Iloprost / pharmacokinetics
  • Iloprost / pharmacology*
  • Iloprost / therapeutic use
  • Peripheral Vascular Diseases / drug therapy*


  • Iloprost