Adcirca vs. Cialis: Is There a Difference?

Katelyn Hagerty FNP

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 3/10/2021

If you’ve searched online for information about medications for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) or erectile dysfunction (ED), you’ve likely come across mentions of medications such as Adcirca® and Cialis®. 

Adcirca and Cialis are both brand names used to market tadalafil, a PDE5 inhibitor that’s used to treat a variety of conditions.

While Adcirca and Cialis contain the same active ingredient, the two medications are generally prescribed for different purposes. 

We’ve provided more information about the differences between Adcirca and Cialis, as well as their benefits, side effects and availability, below. 

What Is Cialis?

Cialis is a popular brand name for the medication tadalafil, a PDE5 inhibitor that’s used to treat erectile dysfunction.

Tadalafil, the active ingredient in Cialis, was approved by the FDA in 2003 as a medication for treating erectile dysfunction. It came onto the market shortly after sildenafil (sold as Viagra®), which was first approved in 1998 by the FDA.

As a PDE5 inhibitor, Cialis works by inhibiting the action of cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase type 5, or PDE5 -- an enzyme that’s found in certain types of smooth muscle tissue. 

By inhibiting PDE5, the active ingredient in Cialis can improve blood flow to the erectile tissue that’s inside your penis, making it easier for you to develop and maintain an erection when you feel sexually aroused.

Cialis is a long-lasting medication, particularly compared to other medications for ED. A typical dose of Cialis can produce improvements in erection quality and sexual performance for up to 36 hours.

Although Cialis was originally approved solely to treat ED, in 2011, the FDA also approved it as a once-daily medication for men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

Cialis comes in several dosages, ranging from 2.5mg to a maximum dosage of 20mg per tablet. Some forms of Cialis are designed for as-needed use, whereas others are intended for use on a daily basis.

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What Is Adcirca?

Adcirca is another brand name that’s used to market tadalafil. Unlike Cialis, which is marketed as a treatment for erectile dysfunction and benign prostatic hyperplasia, Adcirca is marketed to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).

Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a form of high blood pressure that affects the small arteries inside your lungs.

Adcirca treats pulmonary arterial by inhibiting PDE5, which is common in the lungs, particularly in the pulmonary vessel smooth muscles and pulmonary arteries.

By inhibiting the effects of PDE5, medications like Adcirca allow the blood vessels of the lungs to dilate and the arteries to relax, reducing blood pressure.

First approved by the FDA in 2009, one tablet of Adcirca contains 20mg of tadalafil, the same dosage that’s used in the highest-strength Cialis tablet. People with PAH are generally advised to take two tablets (40mg) once per day, with or without food.

Unlike Cialis, which is only intended for use in men, Adcirca is approved for use as a treatment for PAH in men and women

Adcirca & Cialis Side Effects

Because Adcirca and Cialis contain the same active ingredient, they have similar effects and side effects. Common side effects of both medications include:

  • Headache

  • Indigestion

  • Muscle pain

  • Facial flushing

  • Nausea

  • Upset stomach

  • Nasal congestion

  • Pain that affects the arms, legs or back

Both Adcirca and Cialis can cause dizziness, fainting and other health issues when taken with alcohol. Do not drink excessive amounts of alcohol (for example, four or more alcohol drinks) while using Adcirca or Cialis.

All PDE5 inhibitors, including Adcirca and Cialis, can interact with certain medications used to treat high blood pressure, such as nitrates. 

Make sure to inform your healthcare provider of any medication you're taking either prescribed, over-the-counter, or herbal supplements. 

Where to Buy Adcirca & Cialis

Adcirca and Cialis are both prescription medications, meaning you’ll need to talk to a healthcare provider before you can purchase and use either drug.

If you’re affected by erectile dysfunction and would like to treat it using Cialis, you can talk to a healthcare provider online. We offer Cialis and generic tadalafil, following a consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate. 

If you have pulmonary arterial hypertension, you’ll need to discuss Adcirca with your healthcare provider. 

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Learn More About Treating Erectile Dysfunction

Cialis is one of several medications used to treat erectile dysfunction. Others include sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra®), vardenafil (Levitra®) and more recent medications such as avanafil (sold as Stendra®). 

You can find out more about how these medications work in our full guide to the most common ED treatments and drugs

12 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Cialis (tadalafil) Tablets. (2004, March 8). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/nda/2003/21-368_cialis.cfm
  2. Viagra (sildenafil citrate). (1998, March 27). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/NDA/98/viagra/viagra_toc.cfm
  3. Dhaliwal, D. & Gupta, M. (2020, June 23). PDE5 Inhibitor. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK549843/
  4. CIALIS (tadalafil) tablets, for oral use. (2011, October). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2011/021368s20s21lbl.pdf
  5. Cialis® for Once Daily Use Now FDA-Approved to Treat Men with Signs and Symptoms of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) and Men with Both Erectile Dysfunction (ED) and Signs and Symptoms of BPH. (2011, October 6). Retrieved from https://investor.lilly.com/news-releases/news-release-details/cialisr-once-daily-use-now-fda-approved-treat-men-signs-and
  6. Learn About Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. (2020, October 23). Retrieved from https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/pulmonary-arterial-hypertension/learn-about-pulmonary-arterial-hypertension
  7. Butrous, G. (2014). The role of phosphodiesterase inhibitors in the management of pulmonary vascular diseases. Global Cardiology Science & Practice. 2014, (3), 257–290. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4352681/
  8. Treating and Managing Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. (2020, October 23). Retrieved from https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/pulmonary-arterial-hypertension/treating-and-managing
  9. Adcirca (tadalafil) 20 mg Tablets. (2009, August 3). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/nda/2009/022332_adcirca_toc.cfm
  10. ADCIRCA (tadalafil) tablets for oral administration. (2009, May). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2009/022332lbl.pdf
  11. Food and Drug Administration. (2020). ADCIRCA (tadalafil) tablets for oral administration. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2020/022332Orig1s011lbl.pdf
  12. Memon, H. A., & Park, M. H. (2017). Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension in Women. Methodist DeBakey cardiovascular journal, 13(4), 224–237. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5935282/

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

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