Home > Papaverine (Molecule of the Month for February 2013 )
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Papaverine (lat. papaver, "poppy") is an opium alkaloid antispasmodic drug, used primarily in the treatment of visceral spasm, vasospasm (especially those involving the heart and the brain), and occasionally in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. While it is found in the opium poppy, papaverine differs in both structure and pharmacological action from the analgesic (morphine-related) opium alkaloids (opioids).
Papaverine was discovered in 1848 by Georg Merck (1825-1873). Merck was a student of the German chemists Justus von Liebig and August Hofmann, and he was the son of Emanuel Merck (1794-1855), founder of the Merck corporation, a major German chemical and pharmaceutical company.
Papaverine is approved to treat spasms of the gastrointestinal tract, bile ducts and ureter and for use as a cerebral and coronary vasodilator in subarachnoid hemorrhage (combined with balloon angioplasty) and coronary artery bypass surgery. Papaverine may also be used as a smooth muscle relaxant in microsurgery where it is applied directly to blood vessels. Papaverine is used as an erectile dysfunction drug, alone or sometimes in combination. Papaverine, when injected in penile tissue causes direct smooth muscle relaxation and consequent filling of the corpus cavernosum with blood resulting in erection. A topical gel is also available for ED treatment. The in vivo mechanism of action is not entirely clear, but an inhibition of the enzyme phosphodiesterase causing elevation of cyclic AMP levels is significant. It may also alter mitochondrial respiration.
Formal Chemical Name (IUPAC)
Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for February 2013 )