Safety and efficacy of sildenafil citrate in the treatment of male erectile dysfunction

Clin Ther. Nov-Dec 1998;20(6):1033-48. doi: 10.1016/s0149-2918(98)80103-3.


Sildenafil citrate, an oral therapy for erectile dysfunction, is a selective inhibitor of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP)-specific phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5), the predominant isozyme metabolizing cGMP in the corpus cavernosum. Chemically, it is a compound of the pyrazolo-pyrimidinyl-methylpiperazine class. Sildenafil has no direct relaxant effect on human corpus cavernosum but enhances the relaxant effect of nitric oxide (NO) on the corpus cavernosum by inhibiting PDE5, which is responsible for degradation of cGMP in this tissue. When sexual stimulation causes local release of NO, inhibition of PDE5 by sildenafil increases concentrations of cGMP in the corpus cavernosum, causing smooth muscle relaxation and blood flow into the penis, resulting in an erection. Sildenafil at recommended doses has no effect in the absence of sexual stimulation. The drug is rapidly absorbed after oral administration, with absolute bioavailability of 40%. Its pharmacokinetics are dose proportional over the recommended dosage range. Maximum plasma concentrations are reached within 30 to 120 minutes after oral dosing in the fasting state. Sildenafil is cleared predominantly by the hepatic microsomal isoenzymes CYP3A4 (major route) and CYP2C9 (minor route). Clinical studies assessed the effect of sildenafil on the ability of men with erectile dysfunction to engage in sexual activity and, specifically, to achieve and maintain an erection sufficient for satisfactory sexual intercourse. Sildenafil was evaluated at doses of 25, 50, and 100 mg in randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled clinical trials of up to 6 months' duration. The drug was administered to hundreds of patients aged 19 to 87 years having erectile dysfunction of various etiologies for a mean duration of 5 years. Sildenafil was associated with statistically significant improvement in erectile function compared with placebo. Adverse effects reported at a rate of >2% were headache, flushing, dyspepsia, nasal congestion, urinary tract infection, abnormal vision, diarrhea, dizziness, and rash. No cases of priapism were reported. The use of sildenafil is contraindicated in men who are taking organic nitrates, because of the potential for a precipitous decrease in blood pressure. Postmarketing reports and surveillance have revealed at least 39 deaths with sildenafil use in men having a history of heart disease, men taking nitrate medications, and men in poor physical health due to lack of exercise. Many of the men who experienced serious adverse effects or death had a variety of concomitant diseases and were taking multiple medications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Erectile Dysfunction / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Piperazines / adverse effects*
  • Piperazines / pharmacokinetics
  • Piperazines / therapeutic use*
  • Purines
  • Sildenafil Citrate
  • Sulfones


  • Piperazines
  • Purines
  • Sulfones
  • Sildenafil Citrate