Blog What is Viagra?
a man in pajamas in bed about to take a blue pill.

Viagra is a medication used to treat erectile dysfunction (ED), helping men to achieve and sustain an erection. While it is a common misconception that the term ‘Viagra’ is the universal name used to describe all forms of ED medication, it is actually just the brand name of the most recognised ED medication on the market. The scientific name for Viagra is in fact sildenafil – a drug that is sold under various different brand names, including Viagra, Vizarsin and Actavis. Interestingly, sildenafil is also now sold completely in a completely unbranded form. 

With one in five men impacted by ED at some point in their lives, Viagra provides an effective solution. Indeed, over 65 per cent of men report improved erections after taking it. However, what does this drug actually do? Is there actually a difference between sildenafil and viagra? Do you need a prescription to purchase it? And how do you safely take it? In this blog, we answer all of these questions and more as we take a detailed look at Viagra.

What does Viagra do?

To put it simply, the active ingredient in Viagra (sildenafil) helps men suffering from the symptoms of erectile dysfunction to get and maintain an erection sufficient for full sexual intercourse. Sildenafil is a PDE5 inhibitor that works to relax muscles and increase blood flow to certain areas of the body. With this in mind, when sildenafil drugs, such as Viagra, are taken to treat ED, the blood vessels in the wall of the penis relax, encouraging natural blood flow to this area. When sexually stimulated, this helps the user to achieve and maintain an erection.

Interestingly, sildenafil is also used to treat other medical conditions. For example, typically sold under the brand name ‘Revatio’ (rather than Viagra), sildenafil is prescribed to people who suffer from pulmonary arterial hypertension. This is because this drug reduces blood pressure, helping to relieve feelings of dizziness, shortness of breath and general tiredness.

Is there a difference between sildenafil and Viagra?

To put it simply, no – there is no difference between sildenafil and Viagra. As previously mentioned, sildenafil and Viagra both contain the same active ingredients. While sildenafil is the generic, unbranded version of this drug, Viagra is the well-marketed ‘little blue pill’ as patented in 1998 by the inventors of sildenafil, Pfizer. 

Pfizer’s patent for Viagra expired in 2012 outside the US, and expired globally in 2020. This triggered a boom in sales of unbranded sildenafil in recent years, typically at a lower price. With unbranded sildenafil and Viagra being in complete bioequivalence – meaning they both work in the same way, for the same amount of time, using the same active ingredients – they both have exactly the same effect on the user’s ability to achieve and maintain an erection.

Do you need a prescription for Viagra?

As of 2017, men in the UK no longer need a prescription in order to purchase Viagra or other sildenafil-based products. This means Viagra can now be purchased over-the-counter in most UK pharmacies following a short discussion with a pharmacist. This conversation is simply to establish the condition of your health generally and to ensure sildenafil is safe for you to take. Common side effects will also be discussed. If you’d rather not go to a pharmacy to purchase Viagra, you can also order it – along with other sildenafil products – online. While you don’t have to have a prescription for this, online pharmacies such as Access Doctor may require you to complete a short online consultation.

How to take Viagra

Just as with any medication, it is important to take Viagra exactly how it was prescribed to you (or as recommended by a trained pharmacist). Viagra typically comes in pill form. This means it can be ingested just like any other tablet. Simply swallow the pill with plenty of water or as recommended by the directions on your prescription label. Although Viagra is typically available in three strengths – 25 milligrams, 50 milligrams and 100 milligrams – whatever dosage you have, it is important not to take this medicine in larger quantities than recommended, and you should never take Viagra more than once per day.

As a rule, Viagra should be taken between one hour and 30 minutes prior to sexual activity. If, after you have taken your recommended dose, you feel nauseated, dizzy or experience pain, numbness or tingling in your neck, jaw, arms or chest, seek medical attention immediately as you could be experiencing a serious side effect. However, it’s worth noting that serious side effects of this nature are very rare.

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