Generic Viagra (sildenafil): how does it compare to the “little blue pill?”

Yael Cooperman, MD - Contributor Avatar

Reviewed by Yael Cooperman, MD, Ro, 

Written by Gina Allegretti, MD 

Yael Cooperman, MD - Contributor Avatar

Reviewed by Yael Cooperman, MD, Ro, 

Written by Gina Allegretti, MD 

last updated: May 12, 2022

3 min read

You don’t need to have experienced erectile dysfunction (ED) to be familiar with a little blue pill called Viagra. Viagra has been a powerhouse in ED treatment for decades, offering harder and longer erections for more satisfying sex. The generic version of Viagra is sildenafil, but does it do everything that the brand-name Viagra does? 

Sildenafil (Generic Viagra)

The “Little Blue Pill” but for up to 95% less

What is generic Viagra (sildenafil)?   

Generic Viagra and brand-name Viagra contain the same active ingredient, a drug called sildenafil. Generic medications, in general, are the non-name brand version of the same drug (think Kleenex versus store brand tissues—generic Viagra is the same product but without the fancy label).

But that “off-brand” generic product isn’t a lesser product. Generic medications must have the same effects as the branded option to be marketed in the United States. Still, generics are often significantly less expensive without the brand name attached.

In the case of generic Viagra, the active ingredient, sildenafil, is a medication commonly used to treat erectile dysfunction. ED occurs when you can’t get or maintain an erection that’s hard or long enough for satisfying sex. If you’ve experienced ED, you’re not alone—it affects up to 30 million men in the US (Nunes, 2012). There are several ED treatments available, sildenafil chief among them. 

Viagra Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.

Does generic Viagra (sildenafil) work? 

Generic Viagra works the same way as brand-name Viagra. Sildenafil is a type of drug called a PDE5 inhibitor (phosphodiesterase-5 enzyme inhibitor), which is a group of medications that also includes the ED drugs Cialis (tadalafil) and Levitra (vardenafil). They work by blocking a chemical called PDE5, increasing blood flow to the penis so that it’s easier to get and keep an erection.

Studies have found that the generic option, sildenafil, helps up to 65% of men with ED maintain their erections, which is just as effective as brand-name Viagra (McMahon, 2019). The FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) requires all generic medications to contain the same active ingredients, dosages, and formulations as brand-name drugs to achieve the same results (FDA, 2021). 

Cialis Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.

Generic Viagra (sildenafil) dosage

Generic Viagra tablets come in the same dosages as brand-name Viagra: 25 mg, 50 mg, and 100 mg pills. Sildenafil is also available as an injection and an oral suspension.

A typical starting dose is 50mg of Viagra taken 30–60 minutes before sexual activity, though it may be effective even when taken up to four hours before sex. A healthcare provider will help determine the appropriate dose for you. 

Generic Viagra (sildenafil) side effects

Since generic Viagra works the same way in the body as brand-name Viagra, they have the same kinds of side effects. Common side effects include (Smith, 2022): 

  • Headaches

  • Upset stomach

  • Flushing

  • Dizziness

  • Nasal congestion

  • Rash

  • Body aches

More serious side effects of sildenafil are less common but can include (FDA, 2014; Smith, 2022):

  • Low blood pressure: Sildenafil makes your blood vessels relax (dilate), so your blood pressure may suddenly drop. 

  • Fainting

  • Priapism: A painful erection that lasts four hours or longer

  • Hearing loss: This is a possible side effect of ED meds like sildenafil, though the data is inconclusive (Maddox, 2009). 

  • Eye disease (nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy, or NAION): Rarely, sildenafil can decrease blood flow to the eyes' nerves, leading to sudden vision loss (Pomeranz, 2002).  

Sildenafil is not safe for everyone. For example, people who have a history of heart disease (like heart attacks and high blood pressure) should not take sildenafil. It can also cause adverse drug interactions when combined with certain other medications, like nitroglycerin (nitrates), blood pressure drugs, and HIV drugs. It’s important to let your provider know all medications and supplements you’re taking before you start sildenafil.  

Generic Viagra (sildenafil): what does it look like? 

Generic Viagra often looks different from brand-name Viagra. The familiar “little blue pill” is made by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, but other companies can make generic versions. Each company’s design may look different, but this doesn’t change the activity of the drug. 

Sildenafil (Generic Viagra)

The “Little Blue Pill” but for up to 95% less

Can you get generic Viagra (sildenafil) over the counter? 

Generic Viagra and brand name Viagra are prescription drugs. They’re not available over-the-counter (OTC) in the US. 

Some online pharmacies claim to offer generic Viagra over the counter, but those claims are a red flag. It’s important to ensure that you’re purchasing your medication through a licensed pharmacy to be sure you receive sildenafil and not a counterfeit version (FDA, 2019). Counterfeit pills often don’t contain the drug advertised, have the wrong dosage, and may contain potentially toxic filler ingredients and dyes, so it’s important to buy from a pharmacy you can trust (Jackson, 2010).  

You can search for licensed online pharmacies here

Generic Viagra (sildenafil) cost

One key difference between generic and brand name Viagra is price. According to GoodRx, brand-name Viagra costs an average of $70–75 per pill, while generic Viagra costs as little as $4 per pill (GoodRx, n.d.). So the medications have the same effect on your body, but the generic version is better for your wallet. 

Generic Viagra and brand name Viagra contain the same active ingredient, sildenafil, and work the same way in your body. The main differences between the two are the appearance and the price. Both are prescription medications that you can’t buy over the counter. If you have symptoms of ED or questions about generic Viagra, speak to your healthcare provider. 

DISCLAIMER

If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.


How we reviewed this article

Every article on Health Guide goes through rigorous fact-checking by our team of medical reviewers. Our reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the writer.

Current version

May 12, 2022

Written by

Gina Allegretti, MD

Fact checked by

Yael Cooperman, MD


About the medical reviewer

Yael Cooperman is a physician and works as a Senior Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.

Get $15 off your first order of ED treatments (if prescribed).

Start now
0