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Alprostadil to Treat Erectile Dysfunction

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Alprostadil is a type of medicine that causes blood vessels to expand, increasing blood flow throughout the body. By increasing blood flow to the penis, alprostadil helps facilitate an erection.

Alprostadil can be given either by injection or as a suppository. When given as a suppository, the drug is placed into the opening at the tip of the penis. When injected, a needle and syringe is used to inject the drug directly into the penis.

If you receive the injection-form, alprostadil is sold under the brand names Caverject, Edex, and Prostin VR. Suppository-form of alprostadil is sold under the brand name MUSE (Medicated Urethral System for Erection).

Alprostadil should only be used in men with erectile dysfunction. If this drug is not used properly, permanent damage to the penis can occur.

Does Injection Therapy Work?

Alprostadil delivered via the injection method causes an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse in over 80% of men with erectile dysfunction, regardless of their age or the cause of their problem. Alprostadil delivered via a suppository is not as effective as the injection -- it produces an erection in approximately 30%-40% of men with ED.

How Quickly Will Alprostadil Work?

Alprostadil usually begins to work in about five to 20 minutes. Intercourse should be attempted within 10 to 30 minutes after using the medication. This will produce an erection that lasts about an hour. An erection may continue after ejaculation. It is advised to use no more than three times per week with at least 24 hours between each use.

Who Should Not Take Alprostadil?

This drug is not right for everyone. Before taking alprostadil, tell your doctor:

  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to alprostadil.
  • If you are allergic to any other substances such as drugs, foods, preservatives, or dyes.
  • If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter drugs including herbal and dietary supplements.
  • If you have a penile implant.
  • If you have a history of priapism (a painful and prolonged erection not associated with sexual stimulation).

Also, tell your doctor if you have any medical problems, especially:

  • Abnormalities to your penis such as curvature or birth defects.
  • Bleeding problems.
  • Penile infection.
  • Red or itchy penis.
  • Conditions that cause thickened or slower blood flow such as leukemia (cancer of the blood), sickle cell disease or trait, or thrombocythemia (large number of platelets).
  • Peyronie's disease

If alprostadil is not safe for you to take, your doctor can recommend other treatment options that are appropriate based on your health and medical history.

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