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Last updated December 27, 2019. 2 minute read

Do you need a prescription for Viagra?

All erectile dysfunction medications, including Viagra, come with the risk of side effects, potentially dangerous contraindications, and drug interactions. (For example, nitrates, a medication for heart disease and high blood pressure, can be fatal if taken with ED meds.) In addition, people with certain medical conditions may not be able to take ED medication safely.

Self Written by Michael Martin
Reviewed by Dr. Mike Bohl, MD, MPH

Viagra (sildenafil) is an oral medication that treats erectile dysfunction (ED).

Viagra (sildenafil), Cialis (tadalafil), Levitra (vardenafil), and Stendra (avanafil) are all part of a family of drugs called PDE-5 inhibitors. PDE-5 (phosphodiesterase type-5) is an enzyme that breaks down a substance called cGMP, which in turn causes vasoconstriction, or the narrowing of blood vessels. High levels of PDE-5 are found in blood vessel walls, including blood vessels in the penis.

Viagra works by blocking PDE-5. That allows elevated levels of cGMP to remain, keeping blood vessels relaxed. This encourages blood flow to the penis, producing an erection.

Vitals

  • Viagra (sildenafil) is an oral medication prescribed to treat erectile dysfunction (ED).
  • Viagra is part of a group of drugs known as PDE-5 inhibitors.
  • Viagra works by blocking an enzyme that, through a series of reactions, causes blood to flow out of an erect penis.
  • The FDA requires a prescription for Viagra—either the brand-name drug or generic sildenafil.

Do you need a prescription for Viagra?

Yes, the FDA requires a prescription for Viagra, both for the brand-name medication and generic sildenafil.

That’s because all erectile dysfunction medications, including Viagra, comes with the risk of side effects, potentially dangerous contraindications, and drug interactions. (For example, nitrates, a medication for heart disease and high blood pressure, can be fatal if taken with ED meds.) In addition, people with certain medical conditions may not be able to take ED medication safely.

It’s important to talk with a healthcare provider about taking Viagra or other erectile dysfunction drugs. A doctor can take an accurate medical history, determine if any medications or supplements are contraindicated, or if your ED is the result of an underlying condition that needs further treatment.

Erectile dysfunction isn’t solely caused by PDE-5. It can also result from:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart issues
  • Low testosterone
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Depression

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Dangers of counterfeit Viagra

Getting a prescription for Viagra and talking with a healthcare provider beforehand also ensures your health and safety. Viagra is one of the most counterfeited drugs in the world. When you buy an unregulated substitute for the real thing, you literally don’t know what you’re getting. Pfizer, the manufacturer of Viagra, in 2011, conducted an investigation into counterfeits by buying them online and testing their contents. Some of the pills they received contained blue printer ink, amphetamines (“speed”), too much of the active ingredient sildenafil or not enough, the antibiotic metronidazole, and drywall. 

Considerations to discuss with a doctor

When talking with a healthcare provider about getting a prescription for Viagra, mention any existing health conditions you have and any prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, or supplements you’re taking.

Not everyone can take PDE-5 inhibitors safely. For example, people who take nitrates or the drug riociguat for pulmonary arterial hypertension cannot take Viagra.

Certain lifestyle changes can also help with ED, including exercise, a better diet, and managing stress. Read more about all-natural ways to protect your erection here.

We get it: Talking about ED can be intimidating or embarrassing. But you owe it to yourself to talk with a healthcare professional today. ED affects millions of men. Get the medical advice you need to take back control of your health.