PDE5 (phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor) is key in the working of the 3 major prescription erectile dysfunction pills.
Sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), and tadalafil (Cialis) all work by inhibiting PDE5, tadalafil’s pharmacologic distinction is its longer half-life (17.50 hours) – compared to Viagra (4.0–5.0 hours) and Levitra (4.0–5.0 hours) – resulting in longer duration of action, and so partly responsible for “The Weekend Pill” nickname. Furthermore, the longer half-life is the basis for current investigation of tadalafil’s daily therapeutic use in relieving pulmonary arterial hypertension. Currently, sildenafil (trade name Revatio) is approved in several world regions as a thrice-daily therapy for pulmonary arterial hypertension.
Penile erection during sexual stimulation is caused by increased penile blood flow resulting from the relaxation of penile arteries and the smooth muscle of the corpus cavernosum. This response is mediated by the release of nitric oxide (NO) from nerve terminals and endothelial cells, which stimulates the synthesis of cGMP in smooth muscle cells. Cyclic GMP relaxes smooth muscle and increases blood flow to the corpus cavernosum.
The inhibition of phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) enhances erectile function by increasing the amount of cGMP. Tadalafil (and sildenafil and vardenafil) inhibits PDE5. However, because sexual stimulation is required to initiate the local penile release of nitric oxide, tadalafil’s inhibition of PDE5 will have no effect without direct sexual stimulation of the penis. The recommended Cialis starting dose for most men is 10 mg, taken as needed before sexual activity (but not more than once daily). The dose may be increased to 20 mg or decreased to 5 mg, per its efficacy and the man’s personal tolerance of the drug. To avoid the inconvenience of a man having to program and plan using Cialis around the time of his anticipated sexual activity, Lilly ICOS began a clinical development program to evaluate the risks and benefits of chronic, once-daily use of the drug. In June 2007, the European Commission approved low-dose (2.5 mg and 5 mg) Cialis to be used as single-daily ED therapy.
Moreover, tadalafil (Adcirca) 40 mg was approved in 2009 in the United States and Europe (and 2010 in Canada and Japan) as a once-daily therapy to improve exercise ability in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension. In patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension, the pulmonary vascular lumen is decreased as a result of vasoconstriction and vascular remodeling, resulting in increased pulmonary artery pressure and pulmonary vascular resistance. Tadalafil is believed to increase pulmonary artery vasodilation, and inhibit vascular remodeling, thus lowering pulmonary arterial pressure and pulmonary vascular resistance. Right heart failure is the principal consequence of pulmonary arterial hypertension.