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Adcirca vs. Cialis: Is There a Difference?

Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Reviewed by Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 03/09/2021

Updated 04/27/2024

If you’ve searched online for info about medications for pulmonary arterial hypertension or erectile dysfunction (ED), you’ve likely seen mentions of Adcirca® and Cialis®.

Adcirca and Cialis are both brand-name versions of tadalafil, a PDE5 inhibitor 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. 

Ahead, we’ll provide a rundown of differences between Adcirca versus Cialis, as well as their benefits, side effects and availability.

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Adcirca is a brand name 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 the lungs.

Adcirca treats PAH by inhibiting the enzyme phosphodiesterase type 5 (or PDE5). This enzyme is often found in the lungs, particularly in the smooth muscle of the pulmonary arteries.

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

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Tadalafil is the active ingredient in all three of these PDE5 inhibitor medications. It’s the Adcirca generic, the Cialis generic and the ingredient within both medications.

If your insurance covers ED medication, it might only cover the generic version. But check with your provider to see what your options are.

Tadalafil

Tadalafil was approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) in 2003 as a medication for treating erectile dysfunction. It came onto the market shortly after sildenafil (sold as Viagra®), which was first FDA-approved in 1998.

Cialis

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

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

Adcirca

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

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

How PDE5 Inhibitors Work

PDE5 inhibitors (including Adcirca, Cialis and generic tadalafil) work by blocking the action of cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase type 5 — an enzyme found in certain types of smooth muscle tissue. 

By inhibiting PDE5, they can improve blood flow to erectile tissue, making it easier to get and maintain an erection.

A typical dose of Cialis can improve erection quality and sexual performance for up to 36 hours — far longer than other ED meds. 

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Because Adcirca and Cialis contain the same active ingredient, they have similar effects and side effects.

Common side effects of both medications include:

  • Headache

  • Muscle pain or back pain

  • Facial flushing

  • Nausea, indigestion or upset stomach

  • Nasal congestion (stuffy nose)

More serious side effects of tadalafil may include:

  • Sudden low blood pressure

  • Hearing loss

  • Chest pain

  • Prolonged erection (priapism)

Both Adcirca and Cialis can cause dizziness, fainting and other health issues when taken with alcohol. Don’t drink excessive amounts of alcohol (for example, four or more alcoholic drinks) while taking Adcirca or Cialis. 

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

Medications that can cause risky drug interactions include:

  • Nitrates like nitric oxide or nitroglycerin

  • Alpha blockers

  • Riociguat

  • Ritonavir

  • Revatio

  • Rifampin

Make sure to tell your healthcare provider about anything else you’re taking, whether it’s prescribed drugs, over-the-counter medications or herbal supplements.

Likewise, inform a healthcare professional if you’re currently being treated for medical conditions (like pulmonary hypertension or heart disease) or have a history of heart attack.

Adcirca and Cialis are both prescription medications, meaning you’ll need to talk to a healthcare provider before buying or using either drug.

If you’re dealing with erectile dysfunction and want to treat it using Cialis, you can connect with an ED doctor online through Hims. We offer Cialis and tadalafil, following a consultation with a healthcare provider who’ll determine if a prescription is appropriate.

Hims also has sildenafil (generic for Viagra®) or Stendra® (avanafil), plus chewable ED meds in the form of hard mints.

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

Are there natural ways to boost libido? Check out our blogs on foods that help ED, foods for male virility and what to eat before sex to last longer. 

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The main difference between Adcirca versus Cialis is what they’re meant to treat.

Here’s a recap of what we covered:

  • They have the same active ingredient. The active ingredient in both Adcirca and Cialis is tadalafil.

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

  • Adcirca is a PAH medication. While Adcirca uses the same active ingredient, it is not the same as Cialis. This pulmonary arterial hypertension medication is often prescribed in different doses than what’s usually needed to treat sexual dysfunction.

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

If you’re dealing with ED, don’t mix and match medications. A safe and legal prescription for Cialis or tadalafil is just a virtual consultation away. Get started today. 

12 Sources

  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/
Editorial Standards

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. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

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. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Kelly Brown MD, MBA
Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Dr. Kelly Brown is a board certified Urologist and fellowship trained in Andrology. She is an accomplished men’s health expert with a robust background in healthcare innovation, clinical medicine, and academic research. Dr. Brown is a founding member of Posterity Health where she is Medical Director and leads strategy and design of their Digital Health Platform, an innovative education and telehealth model for delivering expert male fertility care.

She completed her undergraduate studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (go Heels!) with a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science and a Minor in Chemistry. She took a position at University of California Los Angeles as a radiologic technologist in the department of Interventional Cardiology, further solidifying her passion for medicine. She also pursued the unique opportunity to lead departmental design and operational development at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, sparking her passion for the business of healthcare.

Dr. Brown then went on to obtain her doctorate in medicine from the prestigious Northwestern University - Feinberg School of Medicine and Masters in Business Administration from Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management, with a concentration in Healthcare Management. During her surgical residency in Urology at University of California San Francisco, she utilized her research year to focus on innovations in telemedicine and then served as chief resident with significant contributions to clinical quality improvement. Dr. Brown then completed her Andrology Fellowship at Medical College of Wisconsin, furthering her expertise in male fertility, microsurgery, and sexual function.

Her dedication to caring for patients with compassion, understanding, as well as a unique ability to make guys instantly comfortable discussing anything from sex to sperm makes her a renowned clinician. In addition, her passion for innovation in healthcare combined with her business acumen makes her a formidable leader in the field of men’s health.

Dr. Brown is an avid adventurer; summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (twice!) and hiking the incredible Torres del Paine Trek in Patagonia, Chile. She deeply appreciates new challenges and diverse cultures on her travels. She lives in Denver with her husband, two children, and beloved Bernese Mountain Dog. You can find Dr. Brown on LinkedIn for more information.

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