Viagra, which treats a common but decidedly nonfatal male malady, might soon have a new role treating a rare but life-threatening disease that strikes mainly women.

Doctors said yesterday that sildenafil citrate, the ingredient in Pfizer’s impotence pill, had proven effective in a clinical trial as a treatment for pulmonary arterial hypertension – extremely high pressure in the artery carrying blood to the lungs.



“It is a very promising new therapy for the treatment of a very severe disease,” said H. Ardeschir Ghofrani, an assistant professor at the University of Giessen in Germany, who presented the results at the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians in Seattle yesterday.



The disease, which affects an estimated 100,000 people in the United States and Europe, can leave people breathless after even a routine household chore or a short walk.



A Pfizer spokesman, Daniel J. Watts, said the company was in discussions with regulators in the United States and Europe about whether the drug could be approved for the new use. However, he would not say when, or whether, Pfizer plans to seek approval.



Pfizer has said that it would sell the drug for the pulmonary disease in a different form from the blue Viagra pill and under a different name, to avoid mistaken prescriptions. Such a strategy might also allow Pfizer to charge more for the lung disease drug than for Viagra.



Asked about reports that Pfizer had already chosen the name Rovitio, Mr. Watts said: “I have heard that name. It’s not official yet.”



Viagra, with sales of $1.9 billion last year, is under competitive attack from new impotence pills.



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