Prescription Drugs, Your Health & Wellness

Generic Viagra or Cialis?

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By Libby Pellegrini MMS, PA-C

When it comes to medications to treat erectile dysfunction, Viagra and Cialis are the consistent brand leaders. These medications were traditionally only available at extraordinarily high price points, in the range of $60 to $70 per tablet. However, as patents have expired and generic competitors have entered the field, they have become more affordable.

Read on to learn more about Viagra, Cialis, and their generic equivalents.

What Is a Generic Medication?

A generic medication is mandated by the FDA to possess the same active ingredients and to function in the exact same manner as its branded equivalent. In this way, generic medications and branded medications are essentially identical in terms of dosages, administration routes, quality, and performance. There may be subtle differences, such as the coloring or shape of the tablet, but these do not affect the function.

Despite the increased competition offered by generic medications, prices for prescription erectile dysfunction medications still tend to vary wildly. In fact, pharmacologic research has focused on the erectile dysfunction medication category specifically, as this class of medications is notorious for differential pricing.

Viagra or Generic Viagra (Sildenafil)?

In the case of Viagra, colloquially known as “the little blue pill,” its generic equivalent, sildenafil, is not blue-colored, but white.

Both Viagra and sildenafil affect the user’s response to sexual stimulation by inhibiting the breakdown of chemicals that relax the smooth muscle of the penis and increase penile blood flow. These medications do not cause erections, but they do prolong erections when they are achieved in the traditional manner.

Both Viagra and sildenafil should be taken once daily as needed, about one hour before sexual activity. Neither should be taken if a user is taking any form of nitrate for chest pain. These medications may also be prescribed for other indications, such as pulmonary arterial hypertension, or even premature ejaculation.

There are no significant differences in the function of these two medications; however, there can be significant differences in the price of Viagra and sildenafil. The patent for Viagra, manufactured by Pfizer, expired in 2017, meaning that a flood of generic competitors entered the market, driving down generic pricing. At a single pharmacy, the cost for one pill of Viagra may be $70, whereas the cost for a pill of sildenafil is $4.

Don’t get overwhelmed by these stunning discrepancies. It can be difficult to navigate the prescription drug landscape, but you don’t have to do it alone. You can use a ScriptSave® WellRx savings card to find the lowest price for your medication, down to the level of your own zip code. On the ScriptSave WellRx site, you can easily compare the prices of these two medications, Viagra and sildenafil, to see which option may be more suitable for you.

Cialis or Generic Cialis (Tadalafil)?

Another population option in the treatment of erectile dysfunction in men is Cialis. In 2018, a generic version of Cialis, tadalafil, entered the US market, driving down the price of this blockbuster medication.

Both Cialis and tadalafil have the same mechanism of action as Viagra and sildenafil; they prevent the breakdown of the chemicals that are responsible for the smooth muscle relaxation and increased penile blood flow that trigger an erection during sexual stimulation. They have similar contraindications too, meaning that they should not be combined with nitrates for chest pain. Cialis and tadalafil may also be prescribed for other indications, such as pulmonary arterial hypertension and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

Cialis and tadalafil differ from Viagra and sildenafil in their dosing. At a low dose, they can be taken daily, without specific regard to planned sexual activity. They can also be taken on an as-needed basis, at least 30 minutes before sexual activity.

If your healthcare provider prescribes you one of these two medications, make sure to visit ScriptSave WellRx. You can realize up to 80% in prescription savings by comparing the price of Cialis and tadalafil.

Some people save a little, and some people save a lot. But, for erectile dysfunction medications in particular, there can be vastly different prices—which means it is definitely worth your while to investigate prior to heading to your local pharmacy.

References:

US Food and Drug Administration. Generic Drug Facts.

Journal of Sexual Medicine. Variability in Prices for Erectile Dysfunction Medications-Are All Pharmacies the Same?

International Journal of Impotence Research. Sildenafil/Viagra in the treatment of premature ejaculation.

Libby Pellegrini is a nationally certified physician assistant. She currently works in emergency medicine where she sees and treats a broad spectrum of illnesses across all age ranges. She holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University.

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