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Mechanism of Action

Penile erection is a hemodynamic process initiated by the relaxation of smooth muscle in the corpus cavernosum and its associated arterioles. During sexual stimulation, nitric oxide is released from nerve endings and endothelial cells in the corpus cavernosum. Nitric oxide activates the enzyme guanylate cyclase resulting in increased synthesis of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) in the smooth muscle cells of the corpus cavernosum. The cGMP in turn triggers smooth muscle relaxation, allowing increased blood flow into the penis, resulting in erection. The tissue concentration of cGMP is regulated by both the rates of synthesis and degradation via phosphodiesterases (PDEs). The most abundant PDE in the human corpus cavernosum is the cGMP-specific PDE5; therefore, the inhibition of PDE5 enhances erectile function by increasing the amount of cGMP. Because sexual stimulation is required to initiate the local release of nitric oxide, the inhibition of PDE5 has no effect in the absence of sexual stimulation.

In vitro studies have shown that vardenafil is a selective inhibitor of PDE5. The inhibitory effect of vardenafil is more selective on PDE5 than for other known phosphodiesterases ( > 15-fold relative to PDE6, >130-fold relative to PDE1, > 300-fold relative to PDE11, and > 1,000-fold relative to PDE2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, and 10).


The pharmacodynamic studies described below were conducted using vardenafil film-coated tablets.

Effects on Blood Pressure

In a clinical pharmacology study of patients with erectile dysfunction, single doses of vardenafil 20 mg film-coated tablets caused a mean maximum decrease in supine blood pressure of 7 mmHg systolic and 8 mmHg diastolic (compared to placebo), accompanied by a mean maximum increase of heart rate of 4 beats per minute. The maximum decrease in blood pressure occurred between 1 and 4 hours after dosing. Following multiple dosing for 31 days, similar blood pressure responses were observed on Day 31 as on Day 1. Vardenafil may add to the blood pressure lowering effects of antihypertensive agents.

Effects on Blood Pressure and Heart Rate when Vardenafil is Combined with Nitrates

A study was conducted in which the blood pressure and heart rate response to 0.4 mg nitroglycerin (NTG) sublingually was evaluated in 18 healthy subjects following pretreatment with vardenafil 20 mg film-coated tablets at various times before NTG administration. Vardenafil HCl (Staxyn) tablets 20 mg caused an additional time-related reduction in blood pressure and increase in heart rate in association with NTG administration. The blood pressure effects were observed when vardenafil 20 mg was dosed 1 or 4 hours before NTG and the heart rate effects were observed when 20 mg was dosed 1, 4, or 8 hours before NTG. Additional blood pressure and heart rate changes were not detected when vardenafil 20 mg film-coated tablet was dosed 24 hours before NTG.

Because the disease state of patients requiring nitrate therapy is anticipated to increase the likelihood of hypotension, the use of vardenafil by patients on nitrate therapy or on nitric oxide donors is contraindicated.

Blood Pressure Effects in Patients on Stable Alpha-Blocker Treatment

Two clinical pharmacology studies were conducted in patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) on stable-dose alpha-blocker treatment for at least four weeks.

Study 1: This study was designed to evaluate the effect of 5 mg vardenafil film-coated tablets compared to placebo when administered to BPH patients on chronic alpha-blocker therapy in two separate cohorts: tamsulosin 0.4 mg daily (cohort 1, n=21) and terazosin 5 or 10 mg daily (cohort 2, n=21). The design was a randomized, double blind, cross-over study with four treatments: vardenafil 5 mg or placebo administered simultaneously with the alpha-blocker and vardenafil 5 mg or placebo administered 6 hours after the alpha-blocker. Blood pressure and pulse were evaluated over the 6-hour interval after vardenafil dosing. For blood pressure (BP) results. One patient, after simultaneous treatment with 5 mg vardenafil and 10 mg terazosin, exhibited symptomatic hypotension with standing blood pressure of 80/60 mmHg occurring one hour after administration and subsequent mild dizziness and moderate lightheadedness lasting for 6 hours. For vardenafil and placebo, five and two patients, respectively, experienced a decrease in standing systolic blood pressure (SBP) of >30 mmHg following simultaneous administration of terazosin. Hypotension was not observed when vardenafil 5 mg and terazosin were administered 6 hours apart. Following simultaneous administration of vardenafil 5 mg and tamsulosin, two patients had a standing SBP of < 85 mmHg; two and one patient (vardenafil and placebo, respectively) had a decrease in standing SBP of > 30 mmHg. When tamsulosin and vardenafil 5 mg were separated by 6 hours, two patients had a standing SBP < 85 mmHg and one patient had a decrease in SBP of > 30 mmHg. There were no severe adverse events related to hypotension reported during the study. There were no cases of syncope.

Study 2: This study was designed to evaluate the effect of 10 mg vardenafil (film-coated tablets) (stage 1) and 20 mg vardenafil (film-coated tablets) (stage 2) compared to placebo, when administered to a single cohort of BPH patients (n=23) on stable therapy with tamsulosin 0.4 mg or 0.8 mg daily for at least four weeks. The design was a randomized, double blind, two-period, cross-over study. Vardenafil or placebo was given simultaneously with tamsulosin. Blood pressure and pulse were evaluated over the 6-hour interval after vardenafil dosing. One patient experienced a decrease from baseline in standing SBP of > 30 mmHg following vardenafil 10 mg. There were no other instances of outlier blood pressure values (standing SBP < 85 mmHg or decrease from baseline in standing SBP of > 30 mmHg). Three patients reported dizziness following vardenafil 20 mg. There were no cases of syncope.

Two randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled clinical pharmacology studies with healthy normotensive volunteers (age range, 45.74 years) were performed after forced titration of the alpha-blocker terazosin to 10 mg daily over 14 days (n=29), and after initiation of tamsulosin 0.4 mg daily for five days (n=24). There were no severe adverse events related to hypotension in either study. Symptoms of hypotension were a cause for withdrawal in 2 subjects receiving terazosin and in 4 subjects receiving tamsulosin. Instances of outlier blood pressure values (defined as standing SBP < 85 mmHg and/or a decrease from baseline of standing SBP > 30 mmHg) were observed in 9/24 subjects receiving tamsulosin and 19/29 receiving terazosin. The incidence of subjects with standing SBP < 85 mmHg given vardenafil and terazosin to achieve simultaneously the amount of time at the maximum concentration in serum (Tmax) led to early termination of that arm of the study. In most (7/8) of these subjects, instances of standing SBP < 85 mmHg were not associated with symptoms. Among subjects treated with terazosin, outlier values were observed more frequently when vardenafil and terazosin were given to achieve simultaneous Tmax than when dosing was administered to separate Tmax by 6 hours. There were 3 cases of dizziness observed with concomitant administration of terazosin and vardenafil. Seven subjects experienced dizziness mainly occurring with simultaneous Tmax administration of tamsulosin. There were no cases of syncope.

Effects on Cardiac Electrophysiology

The effect of 10 mg and 80 mg vardenafil, administered as film-coated tablets, on QT interval was evaluated in a single-dose, double-blind, randomized, placebo- and active-controlled (moxifloxacin 400 mg) crossover study in 59 healthy males (81% White, 12% Black, 7% Hispanic) aged 45.60 years. The QT interval was measured at one hour post dose because this time point approximates the average time of peak vardenafil concentration. The 80 mg dose of vardenafil (four times the highest recommended dose of the film-coated tablets) was chosen because this dose yields plasma concentrations covering those observed upon co-administration of a low-dose of vardenafil (5 mg) and 600 mg b.i.d. of ritonavir. Of the CYP3A4 inhibitors that have been studied, ritonavir causes the most significant drug-drug interaction with vardenafil. No single correction method is known to be more valid than the other. In this study, the mean increase in heart rate associated with a 10 mg dose of vardenafil, administered as a film-coated tablet, compared to placebo was 5 beats/minute and with an 80 mg dose of vardenafil the mean increase was 6 beats/minute.

Therapeutic and supratherapeutic doses of vardenafil and the active control moxifloxacin produced similar increases in QTc interval. This study, however, was not designed to make direct statistical comparisons between the drugs or the dose levels. The clinical impact of these QTc changes is unknown.

In a separate postmarketing study of 44 healthy volunteers, single doses of 10 mg vardenafil (film-coated tablet) resulted in a placebo-subtracted mean change from baseline of QTcF (Fridericia correction) of 5 msec (90% CI: 2,8). Single doses of gatifloxacin 400 mg resulted in a placebo-subtracted mean change from baseline QTcF of 4 msec (90% CI: 1,7). When vardenafil 10mg (film-coated tablets) and gatifloxacin 400 mg were co-administered, the mean QTcF change from baseline was additive when compared to either drug alone and produced a mean QTcF change of 9 msec from baseline (90% CI: 6,11). The clinical impact of these QT changes is unknown.

Effects on Exercise Treadmill Test in Patients with Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

In two independent trials that assessed 10 mg (n=41) and 20 mg (n=39) vardenafil (film-coated tablets), respectively, vardenafil did not alter the total treadmill exercise time compared to placebo. The patient population included men aged 40.80 years with stable exercise-induced angina documented by at least one of the following: 1) prior history of myocardial infarction (MI), coronary artery bypass graft (CABG), percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA), or stenting (not within 6 months); 2) positive coronary angiogram showing at least 60% narrowing of the diameter of at least one major coronary artery; or 3) a positive stress echocardiogram or stress nuclear perfusion study.

Results of these studies showed that Staxyn (Vardenafil) did not alter the total treadmill exercise time compared to placebo (vardenafil 10 mg vs. placebo: 433±109 and 426±105 seconds, respectively; 20 mg vardenafil vs. placebo: 414±114 and 411±124 seconds, respectively). The total time to angina was not altered by vardenafil when compared to placebo (10 mg vardenafil vs. placebo: 291±123 and 292±110 seconds; 20 mg vardenafil vs. placebo: 354±137 and 347±143 seconds, respectively). The total time to 1 mm or greater ST-segment depression was similar to placebo in both the 10 mg and the 20 mg vardenafil groups (10 mg vardenafil vs. placebo: 380±108 and 334±108 seconds; 20 mg vardenafil vs. placebo: 364±101 and 366±105 seconds, respectively).

Effects on Eye

Single oral doses of phosphodiesterase inhibitors have demonstrated transient dose-related impairment of color discrimination (blue/green) using the Farnsworth-Munsell 100-hue (FM-100) test and reductions in electroretinogram (ERG) b-wave amplitudes, with peak effects near the time of peak plasma levels. These findings are consistent with the inhibition of PDE6 in rods and cones, which is involved in phototransduction in the retina. The findings were most evident one hour after administration, diminishing but still present 6 hours after administration. In a single dose study in 25 normal males, vardenafil (film-coated tablets) 40 mg, twice the maximum daily recommended dose, did not alter visual acuity, intraocular pressure, fundoscopic and slit lamp findings.

In another double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, at least 15 doses of 20 mg vardenafil were administered over 8 weeks versus placebo to 52 males. Thirty-two (32) males (62% of the patients) completed the trial. Retinal function was measured by ERG and FM-100 test 2, 6 and 24 hours after dosing. The trial was designed to detect changes in retinal function that might occur in more than 10% of patients. Vardenafil did not produce clinically significant ERG or FM-100 effects in healthy men compared to placebo. Two patients on vardenafil in the trial reported episodes of transient cyanopsia (objects appear blue).

Effects on Sperm Motility Morphology

There was no effect on sperm motility or morphology after single 20 mg oral doses of vardenafil film-coated tablets in healthy volunteers.

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