Introduction: For phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors, such as sildenafil, the only approved indication in women is for pulmonary arterial hypertension. These drugs are increasingly being proposed and tested for treatment of female infertility and complications in pregnancy. However, the extent of use of PDE5 inhibitors in the general pregnant population over the last decades is unknown. Therefore, we conducted a descriptive cohort study using data from the population health registers in the Scandinavian countries.
Material and methods: By linking the Medical Birth Registers and the Prescribed Drug Registers in Denmark (1997-2017), Norway (2004-2017), and Sweden (2006-2016), women with filled prescriptions of PDE5 inhibitors in outpatient settings in the 90 days before the date of last menstrual period and/or during pregnancies were identified. With additional linkage to the National Patient Registers, information on maternal, pregnancy, and infant characteristics, co-morbidities, and co-medication was collected and described.
Results: Among over 3 million singleton pregnancies, only 77 were pregnancies in women who had at least one filled prescription of a PDE5 inhibitor within the 90 days before the start of pregnancy to delivery. Prescription fills most often occurred before the last menstrual period and in the first trimester, with very few occurring later in pregnancy. Sildenafil was the most used PDE5 inhibitor. Among pregnant women using PDE5 inhibitors, 44% were 35 years of age or older, eight had a cardiovascular diagnosis, and three specifically had a diagnosis of pulmonary arterial hypertension. Among the infants born to mothers using PDE5 inhibitors, nine were born preterm, six were small-for-gestational age, five had an Apgar score at 5 minutes below 8, 18 were admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and eight had respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.
Conclusions: Few women used PDE5 inhibitors in outpatient settings before or during pregnancy in the Scandinavian countries in the last decades. Only a small proportion had a diagnosis for pulmonary arterial hypertension, suggesting off-label use in the remaining users. Use was predominantly in mothers over age 35 years. The safety of fetal exposure to sildenafil and other PDE5 inhibitors in pregnancy has not been established. As maternal age continues to increase and additional uses of PDE5 inhibitors are investigated, the safety of these drugs in pregnancy should be thoroughly evaluated.
Keywords: drug utilization; pharmacoepidemiology; phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors; pregnancy; sildenafil.
© 2021 The Authors. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Nordic Federation of Societies of Obstetrics and Gynecology (NFOG).