Viagra is the most well-recognised brand of erectile dysfunction (ED) medication on the market in the UK. Though it was originally made to treat angina, researchers found that it had the unintended benefit of giving men a firmer, longer-lasting erection. When it was launched by Pfizer in 1998, Viagra was the only drug available for erectile dysfunction, but five years later, Cialis joined the market (the third ED drug to be approved for use). 

The question is, has Viagra’s early lead given it an advantage or is Cialis a better brand of erectile dysfunction tablets? 

Cialis vs. Viagra – an overview 

Cialis and Viagra are part of the same group of drugs, known as PED5 inhibitors, but the two brands have different active ingredients – tadalafil and sildenafil respectively.  This difference in ingredients gives them slightly different characteristics. 

While Viagra has the weight of many years of marketing behind it, Cialis is quicker to take effect and lasts longer, but it’s also more expensive to buy. 

How do PDE5 inhibitors work? 

Cialis and Viagra work by relaxing the blood vessels that supply the penis, and the resulting increase in blood flow creates a firm erection. PDE5 inhibitors stop the enzymes that can interfere with this natural process. This group of drugs is responsible for optimizing the chemical, cGMP, which is needed for an erection to happen.

How long do they take to work? 

One of the key differences between Cialis and Viagra is how long they take to work. 

You can expect Cialis to work within 30 minutes, but Viagra has to be taken at least an hour before you plan to have sex. What’s more, you can take Cialis with or without food, but if you eat a heavy meal with Viagra, you could slow down its response time. 

Cialis and Viagra will only work if you are sexually aroused. PDE5 inhibitors are used to treat erectile dysfunction only; they cannot help improve a low libido. If your lack of interest in sexual activity is a problem, contact your GP for more help. 

How long do the effects last? 

Perhaps the greatest selling point of Cialis is the amount of time it lasts. It stays active in your system for around 36 hours, which is significantly longer than Viagra’s four to six hours. So, if you’re going away for the weekend with your partner, you don’t need to be as precise about when you’re going to have sex.  

Cialis lasts longer than any other ED medication on the market today, and according to some studies, this could be why some men prefer it. Research comparing clinical trials of sildenafil, vardenafil, and tadalafil concluded that men with erectile dysfunction prefer tadalafil (Cialis) because of how long it lasts¹.  

If you anticipate having sex at least three times a week, you might benefit from taking a daily dose of low-strength tadalafil. Cialis Daily (2.5mg or 5mg) is designed to be taken every day so it’s always active in your system. 

Side effects of Cialis and Viagra

It’s not all good news for Cialis, because the longer the tablet remains in your system, the longer you can expect to experience its side effects. Cialis and Viagra are well tolerated by most men, but like all prescription drugs there are some side effects. 

The most common side effects include:  

  • Nasal congestion 
  • Headache 
  • Facial flushing
  • Indigestion 

Sildenafil is also associated with a change in vision, which you don’t get with Cialis. Some people experience blurred vision or a coloured tinge to their vision. 

If you experience chest pain, a prolonged erection (longer than four hours), a decrease in vision, or you have the symptoms of an allergic reaction including a skin rash, seek immediate medical help and discontinue the treatment. 

Before you can buy Cialis or Viagra online,  you will need to complete a short online questionnaire to make sure that it is safe for you to take it. The online questionnaire will ask about your medical history and any other medicine you are taking to limit the chances of a dangerous drug interaction.

Some men with severe health conditions that affect the heart or the liver are unable to take sildenafil or tadalafil. Your GP or pharmacist might start you on a low dose, or they may recommend an alternative erectile dysfunction treatment, such as a vacuum pump.

Is there a difference in price? 

The longer-lasting effect of Cialis commands a higher price, so you can expect to pay more for this brand of ED treatment. At Post My Meds, a pack of four 10mg Cialis tablets costs 24% more than the same-sized pack of Viagra:  

In 2013, Pfizer’s patent on Viagra expired, which allowed other manufacturers to make their own generic versions of the treatment. By buying Sildenafil (the unbranded Viagra) instead of Pfizer’s version, you could save up to £16.00, and likewise there is money to be saved if you opt for the generic version, Tadalafil, instead of the branded Cialis. 

Cialis vs. Viagra – the verdict

Cialis and Viagra are both effective treatments; what sets them apart is their differing characteristics. If you like the idea of having a longer window in which to have sex and you’re happy to pay a premium price for it, then Cialis (tadalafil) could be for you. If on the other hand, you would prefer a trusted, household name then Viagra is the one.  

Some men find they get on better with one brand more than the other, but the only way to know for sure is to try it yourself. We don’t recommend trying either brand once and then giving up – it’s common for ED drugs to lack impact on the first go. 

If you still don’t see an improvement after several weeks (eight separate occasions) then speak to your doctor or pharmacist about switching brands. 

If you plan to buy online, use a pharmacy registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council, like Post My Meds. This ensures that the products you receive are genuine and the health advice is inline with what you would expect from a high-street pharmacy.

Although all of our content is written and reviewed by healthcare professionals, it should not be substituted for or used as medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please speak to your doctor.

Authored Nov 24, 2021 by Joseph Issac, MPharm
Reviewed Nov 24, 2021 by Prabjeet Saundh, MPharm
References

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