Vardenafil inhibits the cGMP specific phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) which is responsible for degradation of cGMP in the corpus cavernosum located around the penis. Penile erection during sexual stimulation is caused by increased penile blood flow resulting from the relaxation of penile arteries and corpus cavernosal smooth muscle. 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 causes smooth muscle relaxation and increased blood flow into the corpus cavernosum. The inhibition of phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) by vardenafil enhances erectile function by increasing the amount of cGMP.
Vardenafil is used to treat male erectile dysfunction (impotence) and pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Part of the physiological process of erection involves the release of nitric oxide (NO) in the corpus cavernosum. This then activates the enzyme guanylate cyclase which results in increased levels of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP), leading to smooth muscle relaxation in the corpus cavernosum, resulting in increased inflow of blood and an erection. Vardenafil is a potent and selective inhibitor of cGMP specific phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) which is responsible for degradation of cGMP in the corpus cavernosum. This means that, with vardenafil on board, normal sexual stimulation leads to increased levels of cGMP in the corpus cavernosum which leads to better erections. Without sexual stimulation and no activation of the NO/cGMP system, vardenafil should not cause an erection.
Vardenafil is metabolized predominantly by the hepatic enzyme CYP3A4, with contribution from the CYP3A5 and CYP2C isoforms. The major circulating metabolite, M1, results from desethylation at the piperazine moiety of vardenafil. M1 shows a phosphodiesterase selectivity profile similar to that of vardenafil and an in vitro inhibitory potency for PDE5 28% of that of vardenafil.
Symptoms of overdose include vision changes and back and muscle pain.