Viagra® vs. Sildenafil: What’s The Difference?

Viagra® is a well-known and widely used medication for treating erectile dysfunction (ED), with the longest history of any FDA-approved ED treatment on the market today.

If you’ve searched for information about ED medication before, you’ve no doubt seen Viagra mentioned alongside a drug called sildenafil.

While these two medications might have different names, they’re actually the same active ingredient.

The difference is that Viagra is a brand name medication invented and marketed by Pfizer, while sildenafil (or sildenafil citrate) is the generic name for the ingredient in Viagra that’s responsible for its positive effects on treating erectile dysfunction.

Viagra vs. Generic Sildenafil

Viagra and generic sildenafil work by increasing the level of blood flow to your penis, making it easier for you to get an erection.

Sildenafil, which is the active ingredient in both medications, belongs to a class of drugs called phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors, or PDE5 inhibitors.

As a PDE5 inhibitor, sildenafil works by relaxing the muscle tissue that’s found inside the walls of your blood vessels, resulting in improved blood flow throughout many parts of your body.

Contrary to popular belief, drugs like Viagra and generic sildenafil won’t cause you to randomly get hard on their own.

Instead, these medications work by making it easier to get an erection if you experience sexual stimulation.

Sildenafil has been available since 1998, when it was approved by the FDA under the product name Viagra as a medication for erectile dysfunction.

Interestingly, sildenafil was originally discovered while chemists at Pfizer were searching for a treatment for high blood pressure.

Thanks to its vasodilation effects, sildenafil initially looked like a promising treatment for angina — a form of chest pain — but the results weren’t strong enough to be worth studying further.

In some cases, sildenafil is still used today to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) — a form of high blood pressure that can affect the arteries of the lungs.

Pfizer patented sildenafil in 1996. Two years later, in March of 1998, the new medication, now called Viagra, received approval from the FDA and went on sale as a prescription medication used to treat erectile dysfunction.

As the first oral medication for erectile dysfunction, Viagra became incredibly popular. Its blue color and diamond shape earned it the nickname of the “little blue pill” and large-scale TV ad campaigns made it a medication that just about everyone knew about.

Pfizer’s patent on Viagra expired in 2012 for countries outside the US, allowing other brands to produce and market their own generic Viagra medications containing sildenafil.

Although Pfizer challenged the expired patent in the United States, sildenafil has since become widely available as a generic medication and can be manufactured and marketed by a range of different companies.

Although some manufacturers may use their own brand name, most generic sildenafil products are labeled simply as “sildenafil.”

genuine Viagra® makes it possible

Viagra vs. Sildenafil Dosage

Today, sildenafil is available in a variety of forms. It’s most commonly sold in tablet form, with a typical dosage of 20mg, 25mg, 50mg or 100mg.

It’s also available in the United States in liquid solution form.

Your healthcare provider will let you know the specific dosage of brand name Viagra or generic sildenafil that you should use if you’re prescribed this medication.

Since brand name Viagra and generic sildenafil both contain the exact same active ingredient, you can expect identical results from a 25mg-100mg dose of Viagra (the typical dose used for erectile dysfunction) to the same dose of generic sildenafil.

Both brand name Viagra and generic sildenafil work best when taken approximately one hour before sexual activity.

You can take Viagra or generic sildenafil with or without food (but generally recommended to avoid taking Viagra with a high fat meal).

If you don’t experience any improvement in your erectile function after using Viagra or generic sildenafil, don’t simply take more of this medication.

Instead, let your healthcare provider know — they may recommend adjusting your dosage.

Sildenafil is also sold under the brand name Revatio®. This version of the medication contains an identical active ingredient to Viagra and generic sildenafil, but is dosed slightly lower and is intended to be used as a treatment for pulmonary arterial hypertension rather than ED. If you want to learn more about the difference between Revatio® and Viagra, we have a guide for you.