Abuse of sildenafil has been reported since its introduction in 1999 and commonly documented in combination with illicit drugs among men and women of all ages. Increased risks of sexually transmissible diseases including HIV have been associated with sildenafil use in men who have sex with men. Recognizing the abuse potential of phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (PDE5), we aim to summarize the current knowledge of this abuse. An investigation of EMBASE, PubMed, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website, MedWatch, and search engines was performed to evaluate information regarding sildenafil, tadalafil, and vardenafil abuse. The EMBASE search provided 46 articles fitting the search criteria and evaluation led to 21 separate publications with specific information regarding PDE5 abuse. A PubMed search found 10 additional publications. MedWatch reported 44 separate warnings since 2000, most of which reported contamination of herbal products with active drug components. Few reports of abuse were among the 14,818 reports in the FDA AERS for sildenafil. A search for “internet drug store” revealed 6.4 million hits and of 7000 internet pharmacies identified by the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites Program (VIPPS) only 4% were in proper compliance. The role internet pharmacies play in counterfeit PDE5 or abuse is not well documented; however based on easy access, direct patient marketing, and low advertised cost it is likely this role is underreported. Currently the best recommendation for providers is to recognize the possibility of abuse and to educate patients on risks of this behavior.
Keywords: Phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor, abuse, internet pharmacy, sildenafil, vardenafil, tadalafil, review, illicit drugs, sexually transmissible diseases, HIV
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