Viagra For Period Pains

Viagra, Pfizer’s blockbuster erectile dysfunction drug hit the market in 1998. Sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, was originally developed to treat cardiovascular problems. It was initially believed to dilate the heart’s blood vessels by blocking a particular protein called PDE-5.

As it turned out, it worked pretty well in animals and researchers got the approval to test it on humans. Interestingly, all those who took part in the study were men and even more interestingly, they developed erections after the test drug was administered. The sildenafil was working—but in the “wrong” part of the body.

Viagra was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use as an erectile dysfunction drug in 1998. It was not till a decade later that researchers began running new clinical trials to see if it could also treat cardiovascular issues as originally intended.

Finally, in 2005, the FDA approved Viagra for a heart condition called pulmonary arterial hypertension, which constricts the blood flow to the lungs and affects both men and women. The same drug, for a different purpose, is sold under the name Revatio.

More surprises awaited us. Viagra could ease menstrual cramps. Researchers found that administering the medication vaginally provided nearly double the pain relief compared to a second group of women who received a placebo, or dummy drug.

The somewhat small study focused on 25 women aged 18 to 35 who were suffering from painful menstrual periods. Before studies involving locally applied sildenafil, earlier studies which tested the oral use of Viagra for menstrual cramps found that the pain had “travelled” somewhere else – to the head. As the studies were not large enough, the FDA could not approve sildenafil for use in the treatment of period cramps.

Feminists took issue with this. Why is there no further funding for major studies on sildenafil and period pains. Why were there no women in the original study? Why indeed. But I suspect that if women with cardiovascular diseases were roped in for the original study, many of them would have turned out to be menopausal.


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