Sildenafil citrate is a vasoactive medication belonging to the drug class of phosphodiesterase – 5 enzyme (PDE-5) inhibitors; it is a competitive antagonist of this enzyme. PDE-5 can be found all over the human body especially in the corpus cavernosum within the penis, striated and smooth musculature, as well as in platelets. However, PDE-5 has the largest distribution in the penile corpus cavernosum which is why sildenafil citrate is able to work selectively in this part of the body.
Sildenafil citrate is generally administered orally. However, it can also be administered intravenously or sublingually. Even though its most popular clinical indication for use is in the management of erectile dysfunction, it is also used in the management of pulmonary hypertension, persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, Raynaud’s phenomenon resistant to other vasodilators, as well as in the prevention of pulmonary edema at high altitudes. After oral ingestion, absorption of sildenafil citrate rapidly occurs mainly in the small intestine from where it is then transported in the bloodstream to its area of action. Sildenafil citrate is metabolized in the liver through the action of the hepatic isoenzymes cytochrome P450 3A4 and cytochrome P450 2C9. Following hepatic metabolism, the metabolites are excreted mainly in the stool and, to a lesser degree, in the urine.
Sildenafil citrate is classified as a pregnancy category B drug by the Food and Drug Administration. Studies have not demonstrated definite risks to fetuses when sildenafil is administered to pregnant mothers. At present, there are no definite clinical indications that warrant the administration of sildenafil citrate in women. Studies done till date have not indicated that sildenafil citrate has comparable benefits in women as they do in men. There are other studies that are still ongoing, however, and their outcomes may provide further insight regarding the utility and benefits of sildenafil in women.