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What is Iloprost?

Article Details
  • Written By: K.C. Bruning
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 22 February 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2019
    Conjecture Corporation
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Iloprost is primarily prescribed for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a condition in which the arteries leading to the lungs sustain increasingly high blood pressure. Iloprost can also be used to treat scleroderma, Raynaud’s phenomenon, and ischaemia. It is marketed under the brand name Ventavis®.

The drug is a synthetic formulation of prostacyclin. This chemical also occurs naturally in the body, where it primarily works to prevent blood clot formation by regulating the growth of blood platelets. It also lowers blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels.

Iloprost is taken via inhalation into the lungs. As it is prescribed to relieve discomfort, the drug can be administered from six to nine times daily — and no more than once every couple of hours — depending on the needs of the patient. It is important to keep the drug away from the skin and eyes, and to avoid letting other people breathe it in. After taking the drug, the patient should stand up slowly, as a dose of iloprost can quickly lower blood pressure, and cause light-headedness, dizziness, or fainting. If these symptoms do occur, they should be reported to a doctor.

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Most doctors will start with a low dose of iloprost and increase the dosage gradually, depending on patient tolerance and the effectiveness of the treatment. While a patient is taking it, the doctor will usually perform regular lab tests to determine the safety and effectiveness of the drug. As iloprost thins the blood, patients are typically advised to avoid physical activity that can result in injury or bruising.

There are some previous conditions which may make taking iloprost too risky, or at least require that the doctor observe the patient more closely while the drug is being administered. These include breathing conditions such as lung infections, intense asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Other possibly problematic conditions include blood clotting difficulties, low blood pressure, and kidney or liver problems. Women who are breastfeeding or pregnant are generally advised not to take the drug.

The most common side effects of iloprost include nausea, vomiting, weakness, and sleeping problems. Patients may also experience back pain, a tight jaw, light-headedness, and muscle cramps. These symptoms only need to be discussed with a doctor if they become more severe or do not eventually go away.

More severe side effects of iloprost include bleeding gums, nosebleed, or coughing up blood. Patients may also experience symptoms similar to the flu: chest pain, fainting, or swelling in the legs and arms. A severe allergic reaction, which can include swelling in the face, a tight chest, hives, and itching, is also serious. If any of these symptoms arise as a result of taking the drug, they should receive immediate medical attention.

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