Sildenafil citrate (Viagra®; Pfizer Inc, New York, NY) relaxes vascular smooth muscle, resulting in modest reductions in blood pressure that are insufficient to stimulate a reflex increase in heart rate. These blood pressure reductions are similar for healthy men and men with coronary artery disease (CAD) or who use antihypertensive drugs. Sildenafil does not affect the force of cardiac contraction, and cardiac performance is unaffected. Sildenafil is mildly vasodilating in the coronary circulation and does not increase the risk of ventricular arrhythmia. During exercise and recovery, sildenafil does not cause clinically significant alterations in hemodynamic parameters in men with CAD, and it has no negative effects on coronary oxygen consumption, ischemia, or exercise capacity. Clinical trial data from >13,000 patients, 7 years of international postmarketing data, and observational studies of >28,000 men in the United Kingdom and 3813 men in the European Union reveal that (1) there are no special cardiovascular concerns when sildenafil is used in accordance with product labeling and (2) the risk for serious events such as myocardial infarction or death is not increased. However, because safety has not been established in patients with recent serious cardiovascular events, hypotension or uncontrolled hypertension, or retinitis pigmentosa, physicians should consult their current local prescribing information before prescribing sildenafil for these patients. Among men with erectile dysfunction treated with sildenafil, the adverse event profile is similar overall to that in men with comorbid cardiovascular disease (CVD), it is similar between those with and without CAD, and it is similar between those who take and those who do not take antihypertensive drugs (regardless of the number or class). In a controlled interaction study of sildenafil and amlodipine, the mean additional reduction in supine blood pressure was 8 mm Hg systolic and 7 mm Hg diastolic. Sildenafil should be used with caution in patients who take α-blockers because coadministration may lead to symptomatic hypotension in some individuals. When sildenafil is coadministered with an α-blocker, patients should be stable on α-blocker therapy before initiating sildenafil treatment and sildenafil should be initiated at the lowest dose. Also, in the absence of information specific to mixed α/β blockers, such as carvedilol and labetalol, similar care should be taken as for α-blockers. Sildenafil potentiates the hypotensive effects of nitrates, and its administration to patients who are using organic nitrates in any form, either regularly or intermittently, is contraindicated. Before prescribing sildenafil, physicians should carefully consider whether their patients with underlying CVD could be affected adversely by resuming sexual activity. Management recommendations based on cardiovascular risk, from the Second Princeton Consensus Conference, are presented.
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