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How to Get Viagra: Do You Need A Prescription?

Kristin Hall, FNP

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 2/2/2022

Viagra®, which contains the active ingredient sildenafil, is one of the most popular medications available for treating erectile dysfunction (ED), with millions of users in the United States alone and many more worldwide.

Sildenafil belongs to a class of medications called PDE5 inhibitors. It functions by blocking the effects of an enzyme called phosphodiesterase type 5, or PDE5, which regulates blood flow to your penis.

This helps to increase blood supply to your penis, making it easier for you to get and maintain an erection when you’re sexually aroused.

In the United States, both brand name Viagra and its generic version sildenafil are only sold to people with a valid prescription. 

Below, we’ve explained how Viagra and similar ED medications work, as well as why they can only be purchased with a prescription.

We’ve also discussed how you can get a prescription to use Viagra, as well as why attempting to buy Viagra without a prescription -- or ordering non-prescription Viagra “alternatives” -- isn’t worth the time, hassle or potential health issues. 

Viagra and Erectile Dysfunction Explained

Before we get into why Viagra is only available with a prescription, we need to quickly go over the basics of the little blue pill and how it works as a treatment for ED.

As we briefly explained above, sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, works by inhibiting the effects of the PDE5 enzyme. PDE5 is responsible for regulating the flow of blood to some types of tissue in your body, including the erectile tissue inside your penis.

Erections are all about optimal blood flow. When you’re sexually aroused, nerve impulses trigger the release of naturally-occurring chemicals called neurotransmitters in the corpora cavernosa -- two areas of soft, sponge-like tissue inside your penis.

This triggers a process in which the blood vessels that supply your penis expand, letting blood flow into your penis. As blood flows in, a fibrous membrane called the tunica albuginea wraps around the corpora cavernosa, trapping the blood and helping you to maintain an erection.

Erectile dysfunction occurs when one or several issues interrupt this process. Common causes of ED include physical health conditions such as heart disease and other heart conditions, type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease and injury to the penis.

Some psychological conditions can also cause erectile dysfunction, including anxiety disorders, depression and feelings of guilt about sex.

Sildenafil only works by making it easier for blood to flow into your penis. It won’t cause you to feel sexually aroused at random or enhance your sex drive, nor will it cause you to get hard if there’s no source of sexual stimulation. 

Other ED medications, such as tadalafil (the active ingredient in Cialis®), vardenafil (Levitra®) and avanafil (Stendra®) also work by inhibiting PDE5 and making it easier for blood to flow to your penis when you’re sexually aroused.

Interestingly, the effects of these drugs on erectile dysfunction were discovered accidentally as part of the research and testing process. 

In the early 1990s, while experimenting with sildenafil as a possible treatment for angina (a form of chest pain caused by low blood flow to the heart), a team of researchers at Pfizer found that a lot of volunteers reported erections as a side effect of the new medication.

By the mid-90s, the focus of the medication had changed, and in 1998, Viagra was approved by the FDA as the first oral medication for treating ED. 

Do You Need a Prescription for Viagra?

Yes, you need a prescription to purchase Viagra. Ever since it was first approved by the FDA in the 1990s, Viagra has been a prescription drug in the US. The same is true for generic versions of Viagra that contain its active ingredient sildenafil.

Other ED medications, including tadalafil (Cialis), vardenafil (Levitra) and avanafil (Stendra) are also only available with a valid prescription in the United States. 

Laws regarding the sale of Viagra vary in other countries. For example, Viagra is available over the counter in the UK as Viagra Connect®. If you’re located outside the United States, you can check your local laws for more information about the availability of ED medications. 

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Why is Viagra Only Available With a Prescription?

For most men, Viagra is a safe and effective medication that treats erectile dysfunction without causing any major issues. 

However, like all medications, Viagra has the potential to cause side effects. Most of these side effects are mild and transient, meaning they gradually pass with time, but some side effects can be more serious.

Viagra and other medications for treating ED can also interact with other drugs, including a few used to treat common cardiovascular health issues. 

Common side effects of Viagra include headache, flushing, dyspepsia (indigestion), changes in your vision, nasal congestion, back pain, myalgia (muscle pain), rash, dizziness and feelings of nausea. 

Although uncommon, Viagra may also cause more serious side effects, such as hearing issues, sudden vision loss and priapism (a type of persistent, painful erection that often requires urgent medical treatment).

These side effects are rare, and most men are able to use Viagra and other medications for ED without significant issues. Our guide to Viagra side effects provides more information about the issues that can occur with Viagra and generic sildenafil. 

However, like with all medications, proper safety is essential and it’s important that a healthcare provider explain these potential side effects to you before you use this medication. 

Viagra can also interact with certain medications, including medications used to treat high blood pressure and other cardiovascular health issues. In some cases, interactions that involve Viagra can lead to serious health issues that may require urgent attention.

For example, when Viagra and other PDE5 inhibitors are used with nitrates, they can produce a sudden drop in blood pressure. 

This dangerous drop in blood pressure levels may cause you to feel dizzy, faint or lead to life-threatening issues such as heart attack or stroke.

Other anti-hypertensive medications, including many alpha-blockers, can also interact with ED medications such as Viagra.

These medications are sold under various brand names, making it important to check the list of active ingredients if you're prescribed any medication for treating high blood pressure, angina or other cardiovascular health issues. 

Certain recreational drugs, like “poppers,” also contain ingredients such as amyl nitrite and butyl nitrate that can interact with ED medications and potentially cause serious health problems.

Because of these potential side effects and interactions, Viagra is only available to people with a prescription. This allows your healthcare provider to ensure that using Viagra is a safe option for you that won’t put you at risk of experiencing side effects or dangerous drug interactions. 

While discussing erectile dysfunction, your healthcare provider will likely ask you if you currently use or have recently used any of these medications. They may also ask you about your general cardiovascular health, your habits and your lifestyle. 

This can seem tedious, but it’s an important part of making sure that medications like Viagra are safe for you and other people to use. 

Many of these side effects and interactions are also possible with other medications for treating erectile dysfunction, such as tadalafil (Cialis), vardenafil (Levitra) and avanafil (Stendra). These medications also require a consultation with a healthcare provider and a valid prescription.

How to Get a Prescription for Viagra

The good news is that getting a prescription for Viagra generally isn’t difficult. If you’re affected by ED, your healthcare provider may offer you a prescription for Viagra if they deem that it’s a safe, appropriate treatment based on your symptoms, medical history and overall health. 

Although advertising for ED medication often focuses on older men, there’s no minimum age to get a prescription for Viagra. Put simply, you don’t need to be in your 40s, 50s, 60s or 70s to be eligible for a Viagra prescription. 

In fact, it’s both normal and quite common for men in their 20s and 30s to use Viagra and other medications to treat ED. 

If you suffer from occasional or persistent erectile dysfunction and want to get a prescription for Viagra, you have several options. We’ve listed these below and provided additional information to help you access Viagra or similar medication in the way that’s most convenient for you. 

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Generic for Cialis (tadalafil)

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Viagra®

The OG Little Blue Pill that made its name as the first prescription Erectile Dysfunction treatment.

Cialis®

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Get a Viagra Prescription Online

The most convenient way to get a Viagra prescription is to talk to a licensed healthcare provider online. Using our telehealth platform, you can consult a licensed healthcare provider from home via an online ED consultation.

If deemed appropriate, you’ll receive a prescription for Viagra or generic sildenafil (the ingredient in Viagra) and receive your medication via discreet delivery to your home.

If you think a different ED medication might be more appropriate for you, you can also talk with a healthcare provider about using one of the following medications:

  • Cialis. Sold as brand name Cialis or generic tadalafil, this is a longer-lasting medication that can provide relief for up to 36 hours or be used on a daily basis for ongoing erectile dysfunction treatment.

  • Stendra. Available only as a brand name medication, Stendra is a newer ED drug that’s less likely to cause certain side effects. It also works quickly, making it a good option if you’re prone to side effects from other ED medications or need fast-acting relief.

Getting a Viagra prescription online is a useful option if you don’t feel comfortable talking to your primary care provider about Viagra, or if you just want a more convenient, easier alternative to a visit to your local healthcare provider’s office. 

Visit Your Local Healthcare Provider’s Office

You can also get a prescription for Viagra from your primary care physician. Most healthcare providers have written countless prescriptions for Viagra and other ED medications before, meaning there’s no need for you to feel ashamed or embarrassed about bringing up this subject.

If you have difficulty developing or maintaining an erection, you can simply tell your healthcare provider that you think you might have ED, or ask specifically about using Viagra.

Once you start talking about erectile dysfunction, your healthcare provider will inform you about the options that are available and, if appropriate, write a prescription.

Pfizer, the company that developed Viagra, has an online doctor discussion guide that includes several simple questions you can use to start a discussion with your healthcare provider about erectile dysfunction.

Visit a Urologist, Endocrinologist or Other Specialist Healthcare Provider

If your primary care provider thinks that your erectile dysfunction could be caused by a physical health problem, they might refer you to a specialist such as a urologist (a doctor that specializes in the urinary and reproductive tract) or endocrinologist (a specialist in hormonal health).

They may also refer you to a psychiatrist or other mental health professional if they believe that your ED is related to a physical factor, such as sexual performance anxiety or stress.

These healthcare providers may talk to you in more detail or perform additional tests to find out which type of treatment is best for you. This process could involve:

  • Checking for physical injuries to your penis and surrounding area

  • Testing for hormonal deficiencies, such as low testosterone levels

  • Performing other tests to check your general health and wellbeing

  • Conducting a psychiatric evaluation 

If your ED is caused by a physical or psychological issue, your healthcare provider may suggest treating the underlying cause on its own or in combination with ED treatment. If appropriate, you may receive a prescription for Viagra or other medication to treat ED. 

Can You Buy Viagra Without a Prescription?

You can’t legally purchase Viagra without a prescription in the United States and in the majority of other countries. 

Nonetheless, as a quick look at just about anyone’s email spam box will prove, Viagra is readily marketed for sale without a prescription online. 

If you see Viagra available for sale online without any need for a valid prescription, purchasing it isn’t a good idea for several reasons.

Firstly, Viagra is one of the most commonly counterfeited drugs in the world. Merchants that are willing to break the law and sell Viagra without requiring a prescription are also likely to sell fake products that may harm your health. 

Pfizer, the company that developed sildenafil and makes brand name Viagra, has spent a huge amount of time and money investigating the “Viagra” that’s sold online to customers without any need for a prescription, usually via email spam and fake online pharmacy websites.

Their testing has revealed that many counterfeit pills sold online as Viagra contain “ingredients” such as printer ink, commercial paint, pesticides and wallboard. 

Tests carried out by Pfizer Global Security also found that many drugs advertised online under search results for phrases like “buy Viagra” only contained sildenafil in 30 to 50 percent of the dosage claimed on the product labeling.

Put simply, when you buy Viagra online without a prescription, you might not get Viagra, and if you do get it, you may get something that’s either contaminated with dangerous ingredients or only a fraction as strong as it should be. 

Second, many websites that claim to sell Viagra without a prescription aren’t run by trustworthy, reputable businesses. 

This means that not only are you at risk of potentially buying fake medication, but you may also put your personal and financial information at risk by ordering from these websites. 

To keep yourself safe, you should only buy Viagra -- whether online or offline -- from a reputable vendor that requires you to have a prescription. You can learn more about purchasing Viagra or other erectile dysfunction medicines online safely in this guide from the FDA

How to Get Viagra Safely

It’s easy to get and use Viagra safely once you understand the process of seeing a healthcare provider and receiving a prescription. Use the following tips to access Viagra safely and avoid common scams, fake medications and other issues:

  • Know where to buy Viagra. Viagra is available from most pharmacies and from trusted online vendors. If you’re purchasing Viagra online, check that the process of receiving a prescription involves a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider. .

  • If it’s in your email spam box, ignore it. No legitimate online healthcare provider  service promotes itself through email spam. If you’re offered a Viagra prescription in an unsolicited email, it’s definitely something to avoid.

  • Avoid over-the-counter Viagra “alternatives.” Many of these sexual health products sold in gas stations and online contain unsafe, unlabeled ingredients that can cause or contribute to health problems.

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Learn More About Getting Viagra

Viagra has been in use for more than two decades as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. It’s a prescription medication, meaning you won’t be able to purchase or use it without getting a valid prescription from your healthcare provider first. 

Luckily, getting a Viagra prescription is a simple process. You can talk to a healthcare provider online, visit your local primary care provider or schedule an appointment with a specialist to talk about your symptoms and discuss treatment options. 

We offer Viagra and other erectile dysfunction medications online, following a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate. 

You can also find out more about Viagra and other forms of treatment for erectile dysfunction in our full guide to the most common ED treatments and drugs

14 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.

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  2. Erection Ejaculation: How It Occurs. (2020, November 27). Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/10036-erection-ejaculation-how-it-occurs
  3. Symptoms & Causes of Erectile Dysfunction. (2017, July). Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/symptoms-causes
  4. Ghofrani, H.A., Osterloh, I.H. & Grimminger, F. (2006, August 1). Sildenafil: from angina to erectile dysfunction to pulmonary hypertension and beyond. Nature Reviews Drug Discovery. 5, 689–702. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/nrd2030
  5. What is Viagra Connect? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.viagraconnect.co.uk/what-is-viagra-connect
  6. VIAGRA® (sildenafil citrate) tablets, for oral use. (2014, March). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2014/20895s039s042lbl.pdf
  7. Sildenafil. (2018, January 15). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a699015.html
  8. CIALIS (tadalafil) tablets, for oral use. (2011, October). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2011/021368s20s21lbl.pdf
  9. STENDRA™ (avanafil) tablets, for oral use. (2012, April). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2012/202276s000lbl.pdf
  10. How can I start the Erectile Dysfunction (ED) Discussion with my Healthcare Provider? (2017, August). Retrieved from https://www.viagra.com/-/media/Project/Common/ViagraCom/PDF/viagra_doctor_discussion_gude.pdf
  11. Facing Off Against Counterfeit Online Pharmacies: Pfizer Launches New Purchasing Website To Help Alleviate the Guesswork Around Buying Legitimate Viagra® (sildenafil citrate) Online. (2013, May 5). Retrieved from https://www.pfizer.com/news/press-release/press-release-detail/facing_off_against_counterfeit_online_pharmacies_pfizer_launches_new_purchasing_website_to_help_alleviate_the_guesswork_around_buying_legitimate_viagra_sildenafil_citrate_online
  12. Know the Risks. (2013, September 24). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/besaferx-your-source-online-pharmacy-information/know-risks
  13. How to Buy Medicines Safely From an Online Pharmacy. (2018, January 25). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/how-buy-medicines-safely-online-pharmacy
  14. Tainted Sexual Enhancement Products. (2021, December 8). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/medication-health-fraud/tainted-sexual-enhancement-products

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.