While many women find relief from menstrual cramps using over-the-counter ibuprofen, some suffer several days of debilitating pain every month without any relief from current treatments. That’s led researchers on a quest to find an improved method, and they’ve seen some promising results with the erectile dysfunction drug sildenafil citrate (Viagra).
In a very small clinical trial involving 25 women with severe menstrual cramps known as primary dysmenorrhea or PD, researchers found that a 100-milligram vaginal suppository of sildenafil citrate worked better than a placebo to relieve menstrual cramps over a four-hour time period. The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, was supposed to include more than 60 patients but ended early due to a loss in funding from the National Institutes of Health.
Previous research suggests that Viagra pills help relieve pelvic pain by dilating blood vessels. But women also experienced more side effects, like headaches, which have made doctors reluctant to prescribe the pills.
Those side effects weren’t seen in the new study, but larger trials are needed to determine the true safety and effectiveness of the suppository.
“If future studies confirm these findings, sildenafil may become a treatment option for patients with PD,” said study co-author Dr. Richard Legro, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and public health sciences at Penn State.