Alprostadil helps treat erectile dysfunction by increasing the blood flow to the penis. The proper use of the drug is discussed.
Brand name: Caverject, Edex, Prostin VR
What is alprostadil?
Alprostadil (brand names Caverject®, Edex®, Prostin VR®) belongs to a group of medicines called vasodilators. These drugs increase blood flow by expanding blood vessels.
This medicine is identical to a naturally occurring substance found in the body that helps keep the blood vessels open, letting blood flow more easily. Alprostadil helps treat erectile dysfunction (ED) by increasing the blood flow to the penis, causing an erection.
Alprostadil injection should not be used as a sexual aid by men who do not have ED. If this medicine is not used properly, permanent damage to the penis and loss of the ability to have erections could result.
Alprostadil is also available as an intraurethral suppository. However, due to efficacy, cost, and side effects, it is not used often.
How should alprostadil be used?
Several alprostadil products can be injected. The injection method for these products is the same. However, the ways of preparing the mixtures are different. Be sure you know which product you are using and that you fully understand the correct way to mix the injection.
Do not use alprostadil more often than your doctor has ordered, or in larger amounts. This could result in permanent damage to the penis.
Before drawing the medicine into the syringe, make sure you wash your hands with soap and water and set the bottles on a clean surface. You must also wipe the tops of the injection bottles with an alcohol swab. Do not wipe the needle with the alcohol swab.
How effective is alprostadil?
Alprostadil causes an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse in approximately 80% of men, regardless of their age or the cause of ED.
How quickly will alprostadil begin to work?
Alprostadil usually begins to work in about 5 to 10 minutes. Intercourse should be attempted within 10 to 30 minutes after using this medication. An erection may continue after ejaculation but should not be firm or last longer than 1 hour.
Are there any precautions I should take before taking alprostadil?
Before taking alprostadil tell your doctor:
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to alprostadil
- If are allergic to any other substances such as foods, preservatives, or dyes
- If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter medicine including herbal and dietary supplements
- If you have a penile implant
- If you have a history of priapism (painful, prolonged erection)
- If you have any medical problems, especially:
- Abnormalities to your penis such as curvature or birth defects
- Penile infection
- Red or itchy penis
- Conditions that cause thickened or slower blood flow such as leukemia, multiple myeloma, polycythemia, sickle cell disease, or thrombocythemia
What are the side effects of alprostadil?
Side effects with alprostadil are not common, but they do happen. Contact your doctor if any of the following symptoms become worse or do not go away:
- Bleeding at the site of injection
- Pain at the site of injection
- Painful erection
- Bruising or clotted blood in the area of the injection (usually caused by an incorrect injection)
- Prolonged erection
- Penile scarring
- Erectile curvature
When should I call the doctor?
Contact your doctor immediately if you have these side effects:
- Curving of the penis with pain during an erection
- Erection continues for longer than 2 hours with severe and continuing pain in the penis
- Swelling in or pain of the testes
- Pelvic pain
- Flu-like symptoms
What storage conditions are needed for alprostadil?
If the medication is compounded it needs to be refrigerated. If not, follow the instructions on the box.