Comparing Viagra vs Sildenafil

How to choose between them

Last reviewed: 07 Mar 2019

Sildenafil the active ingredient vs Viagra brand

Key takeaways

  • These medications have the same active ingredient and the same effect, medically

  • The difference between them is in the branding and availability

  • Generic medications like Sildenafil are cheaper, but just as effective as branded ones like Viagra

  • It can be easier and cheaper to get Sildenafil, either online or through the NHS

Contents of this article
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How are Viagra and Sildenafil the same?

Viagra and sildenafil have different names, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that they were two completely different drugs. In fact, Viagra and sildenafil are identical in all of the following ways:

  • Their active ingredients (sildenafil citrate)
  • Dosages (drug strength)
  • Efficacy (how well they work)
  • How long they take to start working
  • How long they work for
  • Safety and side effects
  • The size of the packs they come in
  • Restrictions based on your current health status or other medications you're taking

Why do they have different names? – it’s really common for medicines to have more than one name. These are – their generic name (usually the name of the active ingredient of the drug), and one or more different brand names (chosen for marketing purposes). In this case, sildenafil is the generic name, and Viagra is one of the brand names, for a medication with the active ingredient sildenafil. In other words, Viagra is the brand name given to the generic medicine sildenafil.

Why do brands exist for medications? – when a new drug is discovered, the pharmaceutical company that discovers it takes out a legal patent so that other companies can’t market that same drug for a certain length of time. This means that they are the only people selling it on the market, and therefore have control over the pricing. In this case it was Pfizer owning the patent for Viagra until 2003.

How are Viagra and sildenafil different?

There are still some differences – despite containing the same active ingredients, and working in exactly the same ways, there are some differences between the two drugs.

Viagra and sildenafil are different in terms of:

  • Price (Viagra is more expensive)
  • Manufacturer (they are made by different companies)
  • Availability on the NHS (only certain people will be able to get an NHS prescription for Viagra, whereas sildenafil is more commonly prescribed and widely available)

Medical studies under the brand name – there is also a wider range of evidence from drug trials about Viagra available. This is simply due to the fact that it has been on the market for much longer, and doesn’t mean that it is any more or less safe than sildenafil.

Changes to non-medical ingredients – some branded and unbranded drugs also contain small differences in their inactive ingredients, the other ingredients in the drug used to make the medicine. This is why some medicines that work in the same way can look different, but the differences are rarely ever significant. Branded and unbranded medicines are usually interchangeable.

Online availability – at Zava, both sildenafil and Viagra are available to order, as well as a wide range of other drugs used in the treatment of erectile dysfunction (ED). However, only Viagra is currently available in our erectile dysfunction trial pack of three different medications – Viagra, Levitra and Cialis. Sildenafil is not.

How do I choose between Viagra and Sildenafil?

Whether brands are important to you – often, the choice between Viagra and sildenafil comes to personal preference and an instinctual feeling of safety with branded medicines. However, this is simply an effect of the marketing, as both drugs are exactly the same.

How much you want to pay – price-wise, Viagra is more expensive, and is only available to a certain few on NHS prescription. Most of the time, you will have to go privately to get Viagra, whereas sildenafil is much more readily available and cheaper too.

Where you are getting your treatment from – the only real difference between buying Viagra or sildenafil would come about if you are getting your prescription in-person from your GP. If you buy your ED treatment using a registered online doctor’s service, your method of purchase will be exactly the same for both drugs.

What’s the difference between branded and generic medication?

No medical difference – medically-speaking, branded and generic medication is the same. They both contain the same active ingredient and work in the same way.

Naming differences – branded medication (e.g. Viagra) is medication given a brand name by its manufacturer for marketing purposes. Generic medication is usually named after the active ingredient of the drug itself (e.g. Sildenafil).

Cost to you – branded medication tends to cost more than generic medication, because of the popularity of the brand name. However, both are just as safe to use, and both are regulated in exactly the same way (by the MHRA). This is why lots of people choose the cheaper option of buying generic medication over more expensive branded medication, to save money.

Are there other branded/generic medications for erectile dysfunction?

Tadalafil and vardenafil are the two other generic medications that are available in the UK. Tadalafil is the generic version of Cialis, and vardenafil is the generic version of Levitra.

Other branded medicines include:

Tadalafil and Cialis has the same relationship – Tadalafil (the generic medicine) and Cialis (the branded medicine) both contain the same active ingredient, and work in exactly the same way, just as with sildenafil and Viagra.

Different active ingredients are medically different – ED treatments with different active ingredients work differently on different people, depending on the root causes of your ED, and your different personal needs. Talk to your nurse or GP if you want more information on which ED treatments could work best for you, or order our trial pack to see which suits your needs.

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Dr Nicholas Antonakopoulos graduated from the University of London in 2006. He did his postgraduate training in hospitals in the London area, and he trained for four years in Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery before completing his training in General practice in 2015.

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Last reviewed: 07 Mar 2019

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