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Among Other Things, Viagra Alleviates Menstrual Cramps

It's just inconvenient to take.
December 7, 2013, 2:35pm

via Wikimedia Commons

Sildenafil is a pretty amazing drug: it can be used to fight prostate cancer, pulmonary hypertension and even altitude sickness and jet lag. But refer to sildenafil by its brand name—Viagra—and everyone’s mind just goes to one thing. Still this week, researchers at Penn State discovered that Viagra, popularly thought of as a pill for men, can also be used by women to alleviate menstrual cramping.

Primary dysmenorrhea is the medical term for cramping pain in the lower abdomen occurring just before or during menstruation that is currently treated with anti-inflammatory painkillers like ibuprofen. Viagra can also be used to dilate blood vessels in the pelvis and relieve cramping, but the side effects when taking it orally, like headaches kept the blue pill from being a viable option.

The Penn State team instead looked at administering sildenafil citrate vaginally, which had not yet been tried, to treat PD. Working with researchers at Nova Gradiska General Hospital in Croatia, they found that women who took sildenafil vaginally reported relief from acute pain of cramping without side effects, although the researchers still need to determine why exactly that was the case. Their results were published in Human Reproduction.

It’s not unprecedented for a drug that starts out being sold for one purpose being marketed for another later. Midol actually started out as headache medication, then it was sold to treat hiccups, before finally finding its place as a popular menstrual pain reliever.