Viagra or Cialis? How to Choose the Best ED Pill for You

Blink Health Editors
Jan 28 · 4 min read

Plus, learn how generic options compare to their brand-name counterparts.

Photo credit: Syda Productions/Shutterstock.com

By Sean Evans

When selecting your ideal erectile dysfunction (ED) drug, you may be surprised to learn that whether you’ll end up on Viagra (sildenafil) or Cialis (tadalafil) has as much to do with your insurance company’s preferences as it does your body and its chemistry.

“About 75 to 85 percent of the time both Viagra and Cialis are effective drugs for erectile dysfunction,” says James Kashanian, MD, a urologist and assistant professor at Weill Cornell in New York City. “Men have a misconception that one drug works better than the other, but both have the same mechanism of action and the efficacy is equal.” As a result of the popular ED drugs’ potency, insurance carriers often have a preferred pill based on the cost, Dr. Kashanian explains.

When selecting between Viagra and Cialis, a major difference that factors in the patient’s lifestyle is how long each drug takes to work and how long the effects last. “Viagra will take about an hour to reach maximum levels in your body and Cialis can take up to two hours,” says Dr. Kashanian. While Viagra starts to taper off after six to eight hours, Cialis — depending on the dose — can last much longer, ranging anywhere from 48 to 72 hours. You can take one pill and be set for the weekend, says Dr. Kashanian.

Also take note of whether your ED medication requires taking it with or without food. Viagra works best when taken on an empty stomach, but if you absolutely must eat before, avoid a high-fat meal, as that will make the pill less effective. Cialis, on the other hand, can be taken with or without food. “A lot of guys don’t take ED pills properly,” says Dr. Kashanian. “Instead of an empty stomach, they will take a Viagra pill in the middle of a big dinner, wait an hour or two, and then are disappointed when nothing happens.”

Regardless of which ED medication you take, direct stimulation is required in order for it to be effective: “No pill is going to create a spontaneous erection,” explains Dr. Kashanian. “You’ll need to be physically active with your partner or self after following the proper ingestion protocol in order to achieve the desired result.”

While it’s possible to experience headaches on any type of ED medication, about 25% of men will get headaches as a result of taking Viagra (or any generic sildenafil). Viagra may also cause facial flushing or some visual disturbances. Other common side effects of ED pills include dyspepsia (indigestion), nasal congestion, and back pain. Erections lasting longer than four hours (clinically referred to as priapism) can also happen, though Dr. Kashanian notes that this side effect isn’t from the ED pills themselves. “This happens when other illnesses are present, such as sickle cell disease, or if you’re on other medications, such as depression drugs like trazodone or chlorpromazine,” he says.

If you’re wondering about the difference between brand drugs Viagra and Cialis versus their generics — sildenafil and tadalafil respectively — talk to your doctor about potency. Generic drugs may contain less of the active ingredient but only in a nominal amount. “Generic drugs are held to certain standards by the FDA, so they must be 80% as potent as the name brand,” says Dr. Kashanian. “While name brands may be slightly more potent, they’re essentially equivalent. If a patient wants a generic medicine, I may increase the dose slightly to match.” He adds that some men prefer the name brand because they may psychologically feel better taking it. However, if you choose to take a generic option to save money, rest assured that your doctor will prescribe you the appropriate dose to have the same outcome as you did on Viagra or Cialis.

If you think you might benefit from an ED med or a change in your current prescription, Blink Health offers online doctor consults for $5. You can get your ED pill prescribed or refilled from the privacy and comfort of home.


This article is not medical advice. It is intended for general informational purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your physician or dial 911.

Blink Health is not insurance. The discount prescription drug provider is Blink Health Administration, LLC, 536 Broadway, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10012, (844) 366–2211, www.blinkhealth.com


Unscripted

Healthcare and the prescription drug industry are complicated. That’s why Blink Unscripted is here. To help you understand it a little better so you can get and do what you need to be healthy.

Blink Health Editors

Written by

Writers committed to bringing you the stories and healthy know-how to access affordable medications and care—so you can get well and stay well.

Unscripted

Healthcare and the prescription drug industry are complicated. That’s why Blink Unscripted is here. To help you understand it a little better so you can get and do what you need to be healthy.

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