Erectile dysfunction medications like sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis) and vardenafil (Levitra) are some of the most widely used prescription drugs on the market today.
They’re also some of the most well understood, with a huge number of studies observing direct effects, side effects, the average onset of action, half-life and other important factors that affect how each medication affects the body.
Below, we’ve covered what you should expect from erectile dysfunction medication, from how long you should expect to wait before it takes effect to the side effects you could experience as a result of the medication. This article is for informational purposes only and you should talk to your physician before starting an ED treatment program.
In general, you’ll need to provide some time for your ED medication to start working before you engage in sexual activity. The best approach is to prepare ahead of time and make sure you’ve consumed your ED medication 30-60 minutes before sex, depending on the specific drug and your doctor's recommendation.
Peak effects occur after 120 minutes for Cialis , and 70 minutes for Viagra. Cialis activity is not affected by food. Viagra's effect may be diminished if taken soon after a high fat meal (which may also delay how fast it works). For this reason, Viagra is best taken on an empty stomach.
Effectiveness of all PDE5 inhibitors is similar; although reported effectiveness of Viagra, at 84% is slightly higher than that of Cialis at 81%.7 However, some men prefer Cialis because of its longer duration of effect.
A drug’s half-life is the amount of time required for the concentration of the medication to fall to half of its peak concentration. For example, a 50mg dose of sildenafil (Viagra) will be reduced to approximately 25mg after one half-life.
The half-life of a medication determines how long it will remain active in the body. Generally, ED drugs still provide some effects after one half-life and gradually become less effective as they’re eliminated from the body and excreted.
Below, we’ve listed both the half-lives and duration of action for three of the most common ED drugs:
As you can see, tadalafil is by far the longest lasting of the three most popular ED medications currently on the market. This makes it a good option for periods where you need to consistently treat ED, whereas sildenafil and vardenafil are designed more for incidental use. It also has the added benefit of treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Of course, using tadalafil for either or both ED and BPH should be discussed with your primary care physician.
Because most ED drugs work similarly, they also have similar side effects. The side effects of ED drugs typically occur while the drugs are active in the body, although they can often last for slightly longer than the drug itself.
This means that if you’re prone to side effects from ED drugs, you may notice them lasting for longer if you use a medication such as tadalafil, which has a very long half-life.
There are seven side effects that are most commonly reported by ED drug users. They are:
*These side effects are particularly important to watch for if you have other medical (heart) conditions that require you to take nitrates.
The total cost of treating ED using commonly prescribed medications like sildenafil, tadalafil and vardenafil can vary depending on a variety of factors.
The first factor is the dosage you use. Most ED medications come in a range of doses, meaning that an effective dose for one person might not be equal to an effective dose for another person. Your primary care physician can help determine what dose you should use.
The second factor is the specific medication you choose. Sildenafil, tadalafil and vardenafil are all different medications available at different prices.
The third factor is the amount of medication that you use. If you use ED medication every day, the cost can quickly add up; if you take it once or twice per week, the total cost per year will be far lower.
Finally, a significant cost factor is the brand of medication you choose. Many ED drugs are available as branded medications such as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra and as far more affordable generic medications.