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Is Cialis Over the Counter?

Kristin Hall, FNP

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 1/31/2022

First approved by the FDA in 2003, Cialis®, which contains the active ingredient tadalafil, is one of the most popular medications available for treating erectile dysfunction, or ED.

Cialis is a long-acting medication. Unlike Viagra®, which usually provides relief from ED for four hours per dose, a single dose of Cialis can improve erectile function and prevent ED for as long as 36 hours.

Like other ED medications, Cialis isn’t available over the counter. However, if you have erectile dysfunction, getting a prescription for Cialis, Viagra or other ED medications is a relatively easy process. 

Below, we’ve explained how you can get a prescription for Cialis, either from your primary care provider or through an online consultation for ED. 

We’ve also looked at several over-the-counter alternatives to Cialis and explained why they’re almost never worth considering as erectile dysfunction drugs. 

What is Cialis?

Cialis is an erectile dysfunction drug. It belongs to a class of medications called PDE5 inhibitors, which work by inhibiting the effects of an enzyme that regulates blood flow to some areas of the body, including the erectile tissue in your penis.

Cialis is a long-lasting medication that can provide relief from ED for one to two days. It’s often referred to as the “weekend” pill for treating erectile dysfunction. 

Cialis can be taken as needed before sexual activity to treat ED, or on a daily basis. When it’s used on an as-needed basis, Cialis should be used approximately one hour before the start of sexual activity.

As a PDE5 inhibitor, Cialis works only by improving blood flow. It does not have any effects on sexual desire.

The active ingredient in Cialis, tadalafil, is also used to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension (a form of high blood pressure in the lungs) under the brand name Adcirca. Tadalafil is also used to treat the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, or enlarged prostate).

Can You Buy Cialis Over the Counter?

Cialis is one of several popular oral medications for treating erectile dysfunction. Others include Viagra, Levitra® and Stendra®.

Currently, Cialis is not sold over the counter. Although some countries allow the sale of erectile dysfunction drugs over the counter, ED medications such as Cialis, Viagra, Levitra and Stendra can only be purchased with a valid prescription in the United States. 

Over the years, there have been efforts to make Cialis and other medications used in treatment for erectile dysfunction available over the counter.

Cialis was originally developed by Eli Lilly and Company. In 2014, Eli Lilly and ​​Sanofi Consumer Healthcare, a part of the French drug maker Sanofi, announced a deal to seek legal approval to sell CIalis as an over-the-counter, nonprescription medication.

Unfortunately, the proposal faced significant hurdles while pursuing regulatory approval and the medication hasn’t yet been able to make the switch from prescription only to over the counter. 

The good news is that while Cialis isn’t available over the counter just yet, getting a prescription for ED medication isn’t difficult, nor does it require a time-consuming or potentially embarrassing visit to your primary care provider. 

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How to Get a Cialis Prescription

Because Cialis is a prescription medication, you’ll need to talk to a healthcare provider and get a valid prescription before you can purchase and use it.

While getting a prescription for Cialis may seem difficult, it’s almost always a straightforward and simple process.

Cialis and other medications for ED are prescribed to millions of men of all ages in the United States, and if you have ED, it’s likely that you’ll be able to receive a prescription. 

Like with Viagra and other ED treatments, there are several ways to receive a Cialis prescription if you have erectile dysfunction or other sexual performance issues.

Visit Your Primary Care Provider

If you have erectile dysfunction, your primary care provider will usually be able to prescribe you Cialis as one of several treatment options.

You can start this process by booking an appointment with your primary care provider. Be frank and honest with your healthcare provider and discuss your ED symptoms. If they think you’re a good candidate for Cialis, they’ll usually be happy to write you a prescription.

Since talking about your sex life isn’t always the most comfortable experience, this method has its downsides, especially if you’ve been going to the same healthcare provider for several years and have a friendly, easygoing relationship.

To make discussing erectile dysfunction more comfortable, try to remember that your healthcare provider is a professional, and that there’s almost a zero percent chance that you’re the first and only person to talk to them about ED. 

They’ve likely helped hundreds of men with ED before, as well as many other people with health or sex-related issues much more embarrassing or concerning than yours. 

Luckily, if you’d prefer not to talk about ED with your healthcare provider, there are other ways to get a Cialis prescription.

Meet With a Urologist

Urologists are doctors that specialize in diagnosing and treating conditions that affect the urinary system, as well as conditions that involve the reproductive organs. 

Many urologists specialize in treating ED. If you feel uncomfortable meeting with your primary care physician to discuss your sex life, or if you’d like to talk to an expert, talking to a urologist might be an option worth considering.

Like your primary care provider, a urologist can write a valid prescription for Cialis or other ED medication.

Have an Online Medical Consultation

If you don’t want to talk about your sex life with your healthcare provider, or you just prefer the convenience of doing things from home, you can also get a Cialis prescription online.

We offer tadalafil (the active ingredient in Cialis) as a convenient monthly subscription, letting you access the ED medication you need for a satisfying sex life without having to discuss ED with your primary care provider or make any trips to your local pharmacy.

Using our telehealth service, you can take part in a consultation with a licensed provider online and find out about your options for treating ED. If appropriate, you'll receive a valid prescription for Cialis or other ED medication online. 

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Am I Too Young for a Cialis Prescription?

For the most part, erectile dysfunction is a condition that’s mostly associated with middle-aged and older men. 

Like many other perceptions of men’s sexual health issues, this one isn’t totally accurate. While ED does become more common with age, the reality is that men of all ages can face difficulties with getting and maintaining an erection. 

According to the Cleveland Clinic Center for Continuing Education, about 40 percent of men will face issues related to erectile dysfunction by the age of forty.

Erectile dysfunction and other sexual performance issues are also common in younger men -- a problem that’s often described as porn-induced ED.

If you’re currently in your 20s or 30s and have erectile dysfunction, performance anxiety or other issues that affect your sexual performance, you shouldn’t feel ashamed or that you’re too young to use medication like Cialis.

Cialis is as safe for younger men as it is for men in their 40s, 50s, 60s or older, meaning there’s no reason not to consider it as a treatment if you have ED. 

Cialis Safety and Side Effects

When it’s used as prescribed, Cialis is a safe and effective medication for most men. However, like other medications used to treat erectile dysfunction, Cialis does have the potential to cause some side effects.

Common side effects of Cialis include:

  • Headache

  • Dyspepsia (indigestion)

  • Back pain

  • Myalgia (muscle pain)

  • Nasal congestion

  • Facial flushing

  • Pain in the limbs

Although uncommon, Cialis and other ED medications can potentially cause more severe side effects, such as abnormal vision (color vision or blurred vision), chest pain, ringing that affects the ears, hives, rash and other issues. If you experience any of these you need to seek immediate medical attention. 

Our guide to Cialis side effects goes into more detail about the adverse effects that may occur with Cialis or generic tadalafil. It’s important to contact your healthcare provider for help if you develop severe or persistent side effects while using Cialis to treat ED.

OTC Cialis Substitutes and Sellers

Like Viagra, Cialis has a well-deserved reputation as a safe and effective treatment for erectile dysfunction.

Because of this reputation and popularity, there are plenty of over-the-counter “Cialis substitutes” available online, as well as in convenience stores, sex stores and gas stations. 

These products usually fit into one of two categories. The first are herbal over-the-counter Cialis substitutes that contain ingredients like L-arginine and ginseng. 

There’s limited evidence that these ingredients have any significant positive impact on erections or sexual performance, and none are approved by the FDA.

And let us be clear: you can’t get Cialis over the counter, and these herbal remedies are unlikely to offer much in the way of benefits. On the whole, these products aren’t effective as treatments for erectile dysfunction, and none of them are Cialis substitutes.

The second category of products claim to be safe, “100 percent natural” over-the-counter Cialis or Viagra substitutes. 

These products often contain hidden, undeclared pharmaceutical ingredients, such as sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra), tadalafil (the active ingredient in Cialis) and others.

Many of these products are made in unlicensed facilities, many of which lack the trained staff or precise equipment of a legitimate pharmaceutical lab. They often contain active ingredients that are dosed in excessive amounts, making them potentially dangerous.

What’s especially concerning is that these over-the-counter products rarely identify their active ingredients, meaning they can be particularly dangerous if you have heart disease, an irregular heartbeat, or if you use medications such as nitrates to treat angina or heart failure. 

Some of these tainted Cialis knock-off supplements contain multiple ingredients, meaning you may end up taking more than one ED drug without realizing it.

The FDA maintains a database of these tainted products online, with information on the hidden ingredients found in many “safe” and “natural” over-the-counter ED pills.

As you’ve probably guessed, these over-the-counter Cialis substitutes are best avoided. While there might be some sexual benefits to supplements like ginseng and L-arginine, the massive number of spiked, dangerous products in this category make it a minefield for customers.

Instead, if you need to treat ED and improve your sexual performance, stick to FDA-approved medications such as Cialis (tadalafil), Viagra (sildenafil) and Stendra (avanafil).

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Learn More About Treating Erectile Dysfunction

Tadalafil, the active ingredient in Cialis, is one of several FDA-approved medications available for erectile dysfunction. 

At the moment, Cialis isn’t available over the counter. However, it’s one of several medications for ED that we offer online, following a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.

Interested in learning more about treating ED but don’t know where to start? Our guide to what to expect from ED medication covers the essentials of using Cialis, Viagra and other ED drugs to improve your erections and sexual function. 

8 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. VIAGRA® (sildenafil citrate) tablets, for oral use. (2014, March). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2014/20895s039s042lbl.pdf
  2. CIALIS (tadalafil) tablets, for oral use. (2011, October). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2011/021368s20s21lbl.pdf
  3. Dhaliwal, A. & Gupta, M. (2021, June 25). PDE5 Inhibitors. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK549843/
  4. ADCIRCA (tadalafil) tablets for oral administration. (2009, May). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2009/022332lbl.pdf
  5. Tadalafil. (2016, April 15). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a604008.html
  6. Sanofi and Lilly announce licensing agreement for Cialis® (tadalafil) OTC. (2014, May 28). Retrieved from https://investor.lilly.com/news-releases/news-release-details/sanofi-and-lilly-announce-licensing-agreement-cialisr-tadalafil
  7. Lakin, M. & Wood, H. (2018, June). Erectile Dysfunction. Retrieved from http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/endocrinology/erectile-dysfunction/
  8. 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.