Meds and you

Updated 11 February 2013


Alprostadil is a medication that causes blood vessels to widen and is indicated for the treatment of erectile dysfunction in men.


Alprostadil is the active ingredient of Caverject and Prostin VR.

General information

Alprostadil is a medication that causes blood vessels to widen and is indicated for the treatment of erectile dysfunction in men.

The medication is injected directly into the penis (Caverject) and assists in achieving and maintaining an erection. Alprostadil is rapid acting and an erection is often achieved within 10 minutes of treatment. The achieved erection will last for about an hour and the penis may stay erect even after ejaculation.

It is advised that a patient should receive proper training before attempting self-administration. The first dose must be given by medically trained personnel.

Alprostadil for the treatment of erectile dysfunction should not be used more than once in 24 hours, and not more than 3 times in a 7-day period.

Alprostadil is also indicated for the treatment of patent ductus arteriosus in newborn babies. It functions by keeping the ductus blood vessel - a vessel supposed to close soon after birth as part of the normal changes in a baby's circulation - open in patients in which this closure did not occur. The medication is given in a hospital environment until surgery can be performed to permanently close the vessel.

How does it work?

Alprostadil works by dilating blood vessels and increasing blood flow.

Fast facts

Drug schedule: Schedule 4

Available as: Injection

What does it do? Alprostadil causes blood vessels to widen

Overdose risk: Medium

Dependence risk: Low

Available as a generic? No

Available on prescription only? Yes

User information

Onset of effect: Rapid; within 5-10 minutes.

Duration of action: 60 minutes - 3 hours.

Stopping this medicine: Alprostadil for the treatment of erectile dysfunction can be stopped when no longer needed.

Prolonged use: Alprostadil should only be used as prescribed and the dosage should not be increased without consulting your doctor. Prolonged or misuse when treating erectile dysfunction may lead to development of fibrosis - an abnormal accumulation of tissue - of the pens. A 3-monthly doctor's visit is advised for evaluation. Prolonged use in newborn babies may cause abnormal bone development and weakening of the walls of some blood vessels.

Special precautions

Consult your doctor before using this drug if:

  • you have an history priapism (an erection lasting longer than 4 hours);
  • if you are using other medication for erectile dysfunction;
  • If you have liver disease; or
  • If you have sickle-cell disease.

Pregnancy: Not prescribed

Breastfeeding: Not prescribed

Porphyria: Avoid. It is unknown how this medication may affect your condition. Consult your doctor before use.

Infants and children: Only used in newborn babies in a hospital environment.

Elderly: Dosage may need adjustment depending on circulatory problems.

Driving and hazardous work: No special precautions need to be taken.

Alcohol: Avoid excessive use of alcohol as it may contribute to erectile dysfunction.

Possible side effects

Side effect


Consult your doctor



Only if severe

In all cases


Breathing difficulties







Painful erection



Itching/ burning









Prolonged erection



Testicular pain / swelling






Chest pain




Drug interactions

Warfarin and other anticoagulants

Increased risk of bleeding

Medication for high blood pressure

Increased blood pressure lowering effect

Sildenafil and other drugs for erectile dysfunction

Avoid concurrent use

Overdose action

An overdose may cause a painful or prolonged erection. Immediate medical attention is needed to prevent tissue damage in the pens which may worsen erectile dysfunction

Recommended dosage

Men: An intracavernosal (intra-penile) dose of 5 - 20mcg that is individually adjusted by your doctor to produce an erection lasting not more than 1 hour.

This material is not intended to substitute medical advice, but is for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment and recommendations.


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