Pharmacotherapeutic group: Drugs used in erectile dysfunction.
Pharmacology: Mechanism of Action: The physiologic mechanism of erection of the penis involves release of nitric oxide (NO) in the corpus cavernosum during sexual stimulation. NO then activates the enzyme guanylate cyclase, which results in increased levels of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP), producing smooth muscle relaxation in the corpus cavernosum and allowing inflow of blood. Sildenafil has no direct relaxant effect on isolated human corpus cavernosum, but enhances the effect of nitric oxide (NO) by inhibiting phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5), which is responsible for degradation of cGMP in the corpus cavernosum. When sexual stimulation causes local release of NO, inhibition of PDE5 by sildenafil causes increased levels of cGMP in the corpus cavernosum, resulting in smooth muscle relaxation and inflow of blood to the corpus cavernosum. Sildenafil at recommended doses has no effect in the absence of sexual stimulation.
Studies in vitro have shown that sildenafil is selective for PDE5. Its effect is more potent on PDE5 than on other known phosphodiesterases (10-fold for PDE6, >80-fold for PDE1, >700-fold for PDE2, PDE3, PDE4, PDE7, PDE8, PDE9, PDE10, and PDE11). The approximately 4,000-fold selectivity for PDE5 versus PDE3 is important because PDE3 is involved in control of cardiac contractility. Sildenafil is only about 10-fold as potent for PDE5 compared to PDE6, an enzyme found in the retina which is involved in the phototransduction pathway of the retina. This lower selectivity is thought to be the basis for abnormalities related to color vision observed with higher doses or plasma levels.
Pharmacodynamics: Sildenafil is an oral therapy for erectile dysfunction. In the natural setting, i.e. with sexual stimulation, it restores impaired erectile function by increasing blood flow to the penis. The physiological mechanism responsible for erection of the penis involves the release of nitric oxide (NO) in the corpus cavernosum during sexual stimulation. Nitric oxide then activates the enzyme guanylate cyclase, which results in increased levels of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP), producing smooth muscle relaxation in the corpus cavernosum and allowing inflow of blood.
Sildenafil is a potent and selective inhibitor of cGMP specific phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) in the corpus cavernosum, where PDE5 is responsible for degradation of cGMP. Sildenafil has a peripheral site of action on erections. Sildenafil has no direct relaxant effect on isolated human corpus cavernosum but potently enhances the relaxant effect of NO on this tissue. When the NO/cGMP pathway is activated, as occurs with sexual stimulation, inhibition of PDE5 by sildenafil results in increased corpus cavernosum levels of cGMP. Therefore sexual stimulation is required in order for sildenafil to produce its intended beneficial pharmacological effects.
Studies in vitro have shown that sildenafil is selective for PDE5, which is involved in the erection process. Its effect is more potent on PDE5 than on other known phosphodiesterases. There is a 10- fold selectivity over PDE6 which is involved in the phototransduction pathway in the retina. At maximum recommended doses, there is an 80-fold selectivity over PDE1, and over 700-fold over PDE 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11. In particular, sildenafil has greater than 4,000-fold selectivity for PDE5 over PDE3, the cAMP-specific phosphodiesterase isoform involved in the control of cardiac contractility.
Two clinical studies were specifically designed to assess the time window after dosing during which sildenafil could produce an erection in response to sexual stimulation. In a penile plethysmography (RigiScan) study of fasted patients, the median time to onset for those who obtained erections of 60% rigidity (sufficient for sexual intercourse) was 25 minutes (range 12-37 minutes) on sildenafil. In a separate RigiScan study, sildenafil was still able to produce an erection in response to sexual stimulation 4-5 hours post-dose.
Sildenafil causes mild and transient decreases in blood pressure which, in the majority of cases, do not translate into clinical effects. The mean maximum decreases in supine systolic blood pressure following 100mg oral dosing of sildenafil was 8.4 mmHg. The corresponding change in supine diastolic blood pressure was 5.5 mmHg. These decreases in blood pressure are consistent with the vasodilatory effects of sildenafil, probably due to increased cGMP levels in vascular smooth muscle. Single oral doses of sildenafil up to 100mg in healthy volunteers produced no clinically relevant effects on ECG.
In a study of the hemodynamic effects of a single oral 100mg dose of sildenafil in 14 patients with severe coronary artery disease (CAD) (>70% stenosis of at least one coronary artery), the mean resting systolic and diastolic blood pressures decreased by 7% and 6% respectively compared to baseline. Mean pulmonary systolic blood pressure decreased by 9%. Sildenafil showed no effect on cardiac output, and did not impair blood flow through the stenosed coronary arteries.
No clinical relevant differences were demonstrated in time to limiting angina for sildenafil when compared with placebo in a double blind, placebo controlled exercise stress trial in 144 patients with erectile dysfunction and chronic stable angina, who were taking on a regular basis anti-anginal medications (except nitrates).
Mild and transient differences in colour discrimination (blue/green) were detected in some subjects using the Farnsworth-Munsell 100 hue test at 1 hour following a 100mg dose, with no effects evident after 2 hours post-dose. The postulated mechanism for this change in colour discrimination is related to inhibition of PDE6, which is involved in the phototransduction cascade of the retina. Sildenafil has no effect on visual acuity or contrast sensitivity. In a small size placebo-controlled study of patients with documented early age-related macular degeneration (n=9), sildenafil (single dose, 100mg) demonstrated no significant changes in visual tests conducted (visual acuity, Amsler grid, colour discrimination simulated traffic light, Humphrey perimeter and photostress).
There was no effect on sperm motility or morphology after single 100mg oral doses of sildenafil in healthy volunteers.
Pharmacokinetics: Sildenafil is rapidly absorbed after an oral dose, with a bioavailability of about 40%. Peak plasma concentrations occur within 30 to 120 minutes; the rate of absorption is reduced when sildenafil is given with food. Sildenafil is widely distributed into tissues and is about 96% bound to plasma proteins. It is metabolized in the liver mainly by cytochrome P450 isoenzymes CYP3A4 (the major route) and CYP2C9. The major metabolite, N-desmethylsildenafil also has some activity. The terminal half-lives of sildenafil and the N - desmethyl metabolite are about 4 hours. Sildenafil is excreted as metabolites, mainly in the faeces, and to a lesser extent the urine. Clearance likely to be reduced in the elderly and in patients with hepatic or severe renal impairment.
Pharmacokinetics in special patient groups: Elderly: Healthy elderly volunteers (65 years or over) had a reduced clearance of sildenafil, resulting in approximately 90% higher plasma concentrations of sildenafil and the active N-desmethyl metabolite compared to those seen in healthy younger volunteers (18-45 years). Due to age-differences in plasma protein binding, the corresponding increase in free sildenafil plasma concentration was approximately 40%.
Renal insufficiency: In volunteers with mild to moderate renal impairment (creatinine clearance = 30-80 ml/min), the pharmacokinetics of sildenafil were not altered after receiving a 50 mg single oral dose. The mean AUC and Cmax of the N-desmethyl metabolite increased max 126% and 73% respectively, compared to age-matched volunteers with no renal impairment. However, due to high inter-subject variability, these differences were not statistically significant. In volunteers with severe renal impairment (creatinine clearance <30 ml/min), sildenafil clearance was reduced, resulting in mean increases in AUC and Cmax of 100% and 88% respectively compared to age- max matched volunteers with no renal impairment. In addition, N- desmethyl metabolite AUC and Cmax values were significantly increased 79% and 200% respectively.
Hepatic insufficiency: In volunteers with mild to moderate hepatic cirrhosis (Child-Pugh A and B) sildenafil clearance was reduced, resulting in increases in AUC (84%) and Cmax (47%) compared to age-matched volunteers with no hepatic impairment. The pharmacokinetics of sildenafil in patients with severely impaired hepatic function have not been studied.