What is Papaverine Hydrochloride?

D. Jeffress

Papaverine hydrochloride is a prescription drug used to treat a number of different conditions that cause muscle spasms or decreased blood flow, such as heart attacks, blood clots and stroke. The medication is classified as a vasodilator, meaning that it widens blood vessels and promotes better circulation to and from the lungs, heart, and brain. Papaverine hydrochloride is usually given as an intravenous injection in a hospital setting to provide immediate relief from symptoms. There are risks of side effects, but reactions are typically mild and short-lived. Doctors are careful when administering the drug to prevent overdose and dangerous complications.

Some patients experience headaches.
Some patients experience headaches.

Vasodilators work by relaxing smooth muscle tissue and taking pressure off of blood vessels. As a result, vessels expand and blood pressure can normalize. Injections are used in hospitals to treat heart attacks, embolisms, strokes, and deep blood clots in leg veins. In non-emergency situations, papaverine hydrochloride may be provided in capsule form to gradually widen blood vessels and prevent impending conditions. An injectible diluted solution of papaverine hydrochloride is also available for regular use at home for males with erectile dysfunction.

Nausea is a common side effect of papverine hydrochloride.
Nausea is a common side effect of papverine hydrochloride.

Dosage amounts depend on the patient's age and the specific disorder that is being treated, but most adults receive about four milliliters or 150 milligrams of the drug at a time. If blood vessel problems persist or return, additional doses can be administered three hours apart for as long as it takes to relieve symptoms. When papaverine hydrochloride is prescribed for erectile dysfunction, a patient is typically instructed to inject no more than 60 milligrams directly into his penis at a maximum of one time a day and three times a week.

Papaverine hydrochloride is known to cause side effects. The most common problems include abdominal pain, nausea, and temporary increases in heart rate. Some patients experience diarrhea, headaches, and mental confusion, especially with multiple doses. Less commonly, the drug can cause allergic reactions that result in skin hives and breathing difficulties.

Overdosing on papaverine hydrochloride is highly unlikely when the drug is administered by a physician or a trained nurse. If an accidental overdose does occur, a patient may begin to hyperventilate, convulse, and possibly slip into a coma. Immediate measures are taken to combat symptoms of overdose and flush the drug from the body. Most patients who are carefully monitored during treatment do not experience serious complications. Emergency conditions such as heart attacks and embolisms cannot always be stopped, but papaverine hydrochloride does greatly improve the chances of surviving episodes without suffering permanent organ damage.

An accidental overdose of papaverine hydrochloride may cause the patient to slip into a coma.
An accidental overdose of papaverine hydrochloride may cause the patient to slip into a coma.

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