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Viagra vs. Cialis: Which Is Cheaper?

Man and woman smiling at each.

Choosing the erectile dysfunction medication that’s right for you and your partner can be a challenge. 

Introduction

Inarguably the most popular erectile dysfunction drugs on the market, Viagra and Cialis have much in common and yet are significantly different in some ways.

It’s common for men who need the help of an oral ED drug to wonder which of these two is the best buy for his particular needs. They are not significantly different in price or in possible side effects but differ primarily in their onset and duration of action.

This article offers a comprehensive description of each of these popular medications, looking at both the characteristics they have in common and their differences. Using the information presented here, prospective ED drug customers hopefully will be better able to decide whether Viagra or Cialis better suits their needs.

A Brief History

As is the case with many other important prescription drugs, sildenafil citrate was initially developed and studied by Pfizer research scientists for purposes totally unrelated to the treatment of ED. In fact, it was hoped that the drug would prove to be a powerful treatment for angina pectoris and intractable high blood pressure. Unfortunately, it failed to impress when clinically tested among patients suffering from those disorders.

However, it did have a somewhat curious side effect on male study participants. Those taking sildenafil, including some men who’d been diagnosed with ED, suddenly found that they no longer had any difficulty in getting and keeping an erection. Pfizer closed down its study of the drug as an angina treatment and began looking at it as a revolutionary new drug to treat ED. It debuted on the U.S. market in 1998.

For the next five years or so, Viagra enjoyed a monopoly on the market for oral ED drugs. But other pharmaceutical researchers were hard at work trying to develop their own versions of this revolutionary new treatment for ED. Levitra, the first of these competitors, won FDA approval in September 2003, and Cialis got the nod from the drug regulatory agency two months later in November 2003.

PDE5 Inhibitors and How They Work

Both Viagra and Cialis belong to a family of medications known as PDE5 inhibitors, so called because they temporarily sideline an enzyme known as phosphodiesterase-5, which can intefere with blood flow to the penis. Other brand-name members of this exclusive family include Levitra, Staxyn, and Stendra.

PDE5 inhibitors were developed to temporarily optimize blood flow in patients whose ED was caused by insufficient blood flow to the penis, the single biggest cause of ED, accounting for up to 80 percent of all male impotence. A key player in erectile function is a substance called cyclic guanosine monophosphate, or cGMP. It triggers the relaxation of the smooth muscle tissue that lines the inner walls of blood vessels that supply the penis. As these vessels relax, blood flow increases sharply.

However, one of the primary functions of the PDE5 enzyme is to break down cGMP. In men with no vascular problems, this poses little problem as the body quickly produces more cGMP to take its place. However, in men whose vascular health is compromised, the PDE5 enzyme kills off cGMP faster than it can be replaced, thus sabotaging erectile function. This can manifest itself in an inability to get an erection or an inability to maintain an erection long enough to complete sexual activity.

What Is Viagra?

Viagra is a deep blue tablet that comes in the shape of a stylized diamond. It is available in varying doses, including 25, 50, and 100 milligrams, all of which strengths carry roughly the same price tag per pill. Many men find that a 25- or 50-milligram dose works well for them, so they buy 100-milligram tablets and split them into two or four, depending on which dosage stength works best for them.

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For comparison purposes, a single 100-milligram tablet of the little blue pill sells for $95 at AccessRx.com, a longtime online facilitator that sells all brand-name ED medications as well as a handful of other lifestyle drugs.

What Is Cialis?

Cialis actually comes in two different formulations, one of which is considered an on-demand drug, comparable to Viagra, and another (2.5- and 5-milligram tablets) that must be taken daily to allow for sexual activity whenever the need might arise. For the purposes of this comparison with Viagra, all future references to Cialis will be to the on-demand form of the drug. Cialis on-demand is available in tablets of 10 and 20 milligrams, which are elliptical in shape and yellow in color. Its active ingredient is tadalafil.

Document with the words diagnosis Impotence, with a bottle of pills on its side.

Medications like Viagra and Cialis mean men diagnosed with erectile dysfunction can still enjoy relatively normal sex lives.

Costwise, a 20-milligram tablet of Cialis with a price tag of $94 is nearly identical in price to a 100-milligram of Viagra at AccessRx.com. However, the manufacturer advises against splitting Cialis in two.

Viagra vs. Cialis

As mentioned briefly earlier, the primary differences between Viagra and Cialis are in onset and duration of action. According to Healthline.com, both Viagra and Cialis usually take effect within 30 to 60 minutes. However, anecdotal reports indicate that Cialis is usually somewhat faster acting. Where the two ED drugs differ most dramatically is in duration of action. The effects of Viagra usually wear off after six hours at the most, while the effects of Cialis can last up to 36 hours.

Both Viagra and Cialis can be taken with or without food, although Viagra users have reported a delayed onset of action when the pill was taken after a meal high in fat, which apparently delays absorption of the drug.

What About Side Effects?

As previously noted, Viagra and Cialis both belong to the same family of medications — PDE5 inhibitors. However, each has its own unique chemical formula that account for subtle — and not so subtle — differences between them.

When it comes to side effects, the common side effects from each of these drugs are much the same. These include facial flushing, headache, indigestion, and runny or stuffy nose. Some Viagra users report experiencing a temporary green-blue tinge to their vision. Although rare, both these medications can cause more serious side effects, including an erection that lasts for four or more hours and a partial or total loss of vision or hearing. These should be considered emergencies, and immediate medical attention should be sought.

But Which One Is Best for You?

Here are the key points to consider when deciding between Viagra and Cialis:

  • Viagra opens up a four- to six-hour window of time during which a man should be able to get and keep an erection suitable for intercourse. The effects of Cialis can last for up to 36 hours.
  • A 100-milligram tablet of Viagra can be split into four 25-milligram doses or two 50-milligram doses, depending on the strength a user requires to achieve the desired results. Splitting Cialis is inadvisable.
  • If you’re a honeymooner, young and very sexually active, or away for a romantic weekend, long-lasting Cialis might be your best bet.
  • If you’re a more typical American adult, you probably have sex an average of 60 times a year, or just over once a week, according to the results of a sexual behavior survey conducted by the General Social Survey. Buying a 100-milligram Viagra tablet that yields two to four doses is clearly the more cost-effective choice if you’re in this category.

Get Your ED Drugs Online

No matter which ED drug you prefer, you’ll need a prescription to buy it. If you have a script from your family physician, you can get it filled at your neighborhood pharmacy or choose instead to order it from an online facilitator such as AccessRx.com.

If you go the latter route, you can fax your doctor’s prescription or scan and email it along with your order to AccessRx. No doctor’s prescription? No problem. The longtime online facilitator can set up a complimentary online consultation with a member of its team of licensed U.S. physicians. The doctor will authorize a prescription if he or she determines that you’re an appropriate candidate for the drug. To learn more about all that AccessRx has to offer, click here to visit its Erectile Dysfunction page. 

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About Don Amerman

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Don Amerman has spent more than three decades in the business of writing and editing. During the last 15 years, his focus has been on freelance writing. For almost all of his writing, He has done all of his own research, both online and off, including telephone and face-to-face interviews where possible. Don Amerman on Google+