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Tadalafil vs. Cialis: What’s the Difference?

Katelyn Brenner FNP

Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Geoffrey Whittaker

Published 06/02/2021

Updated 10/20/2023

While dealing with erectile dysfunction (ED) can be, well, hard — just ask the 30 million men in the United States affected by it — choosing between ED treatments can be difficult in its own way.

There are a number of effective ED medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and with both generic and brand name versions available, the choices often double. One example is the brand name medication Cialis® and its generic version tadalafil.

Are there vast differences when it comes to tadalafil vs Cialis? Is the Cialis generic just as good as the brand name?

Fortunately for you, we have answers to all these questions and everything else you may want to know about Cialis vs tadalafil.

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One thing that may make the comparison between Cialis and tadalafil easier is that both ED treatments work the same way. In fact, all the most common medications for the treatment of erectile dysfunction work in a similar way.

Let’s back up a little and explain how erectile dysfunction can happen.

Many factors can cause ED. Common ones include medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure or obesity. Illicit drug or excessive alcohol use can also affect your sex life and erectile function, as can psychological causes like depression, anxiety and sexual performance anxiety.

Regardless of whether your ED is caused by psychological or physiological factors, how Cialis works is a bit like magic (well, science that seems like magic).

Many popular ED medications are in a class of drug called phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors (PDE5 inhibitors), which were initially developed to treat hypertension. These drugs block the production of phosphodiesterase type 5 enzymes, allowing your blood vessels to widen and more blood flow to the penis with sexual stimulation. This results in firmer erections.

Although tadalafil came later in the timeline of FDA approval for ED medications, the drug’s 36-hour effectiveness quickly made it a popular choice.

How long tadalafil lasts isn’t the only draw — it’s also the only ED drug that can be taken as needed or every day, depending on why you’re taking it.

There are a couple of different tadalafil uses, including the treatment of erectile dysfunction and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) — also known as an enlarged prostate. Cialis and tadalafil are typically taken daily for BPH treatment or right before sexual activity for ED, although you can take them daily for ED as well.

Whether you take daily Cialis or pop a dose of tadalafil as needed before sex, both are very effective for treating ED, according to a 2017 review of six studies.

Now when it comes to comparing tadalafil vs Cialis, there’s mostly good news and a bit of not-as-good news.

The good news — a generic medication is actually required to be the same as its brand-name drug in dosage, effectiveness, strength, safety and quality, as well as how the medication is taken.

Put simply, one of the biggest differences between Cialis and tadalafil is branding. All Cialis is tadalafil, but not all tadalafil is Cialis.

Whether you take the brand name medication or the generic version, the dosage you take will be the same. Here’s what to know:

  • Treating ED and treating benign prostatic hyperplasia require different tadalafil dosages.

  • For BPH, tadalafil is prescribed at a lower dose of 5mg.

  • A higher Cialis dosage — usually a 10mg dose — is used for the treatment of erectile dysfunction before sexual activity. A 20 mg Cialis dose can also be used as needed for erectile dysfunction.

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Remember the not-as-good news we mentioned when comparing tadalafil and Cialis? While generic drugs have the same benefits as their brand-name counterparts, they also have the same possible risks, drug interactions and side effects.

Any medication, brand name or generic, can possibly cause side effects. If you’re taking these medications for ED, you may want to be on the lookout for these common side effects of Cialis:

  • Blurred vision

  • Flushing

  • Diarrhea

  • Indigestion

  • Nausea

  • Stomach pain

  • Dizziness

  • Chest pain

  • Hives or rash

  • Trouble breathing

  • Headaches

And while a longer-lasting erection may sound like a dream come true, no erection should last more than four hours. If your erection is sticking around past this timeline (a condition called priapism), you should seek medical advice from a healthcare professional immediately.

You should also be on the lookout for drug interactions between tadalafil and other drugs, supplements or even some foods. These can increase your risk of experiencing side effects, cause more serious adverse effects or affect how well the medication works. Tadalafil interactions that you should be aware of include nitrates, alpha-blockers, blood pressure medications, CYP3A4 inhibitors (also found in grapefruit juice) and alcohol.

Choose your chew

The biggest difference between Cialis and tadalafil is that one is a brand name and the other is generic, which means the other big difference between the two is the price.

Generic medicines typically cost less than brand-name drugs because generic versions don’t have to repeat the costly studies required to demonstrate safety and effectiveness.

While the cost of tadalafil can vary depending on the dosage you use, average prices for 5mg are between $1 to $8 per tablet, while a 10mg tablet may be anywhere from $1 to $25 or more.

If you’re taking the brand name, however, the price of Cialis can run you anywhere from $12 to upwards of $70 per tablet, depending on the specific dosage. For a month’s supply, typical prices range from $380 to $1,000 or more.

These prices can also vary depending on where you purchase the medication, your insurance and several other factors.

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In a world full of choices, we want to make sure we’re making the best ones, especially when it comes to our health. For the treatment of erectile dysfunction, you’re fortunate enough to have several choices, including tadalafil and Cialis. 

But who comes out on top in Cialis vs tadalafil? Honestly, both are great choices and they have

8 Sources

  1. Definition & Facts for Erectile Dysfunction - NIDDK. (n.d.). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/definition-facts
  2. Sooriyamoorthy, T., Leslie, S.W. Erectile Dysfunction. [Updated 2023 May 30]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562253/
  3. Symptoms & Causes of Erectile Dysfunction - NIDDK. (n.d.). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/symptoms-causes
  4. Dhaliwal, A., Gupta, M. PDE5 Inhibitors. [Updated 2023 Apr 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK549843/
  5. Huang, S. A., & Lie, J. D. (2013). Phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) Inhibitors In the Management of Erectile Dysfunction. P & T : a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management, 38(7), 407–419. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3776492/
  6. CIALIS (tadalafil) tablets, for oral use. (n.d.). Accessdata.fda.gov. Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2018/021368s030lbl.pdf
  7. Peng, Z., Yang, L., Dong, Q., Wei, Q., Liu, L., & Yang, B. (2017). Efficacy and Safety of Tadalafil Once-a-Day versus Tadalafil On-Demand in Patients with Erectile Dysfunction: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses. Urologia Internationalis, 99, 343–352. Retrieved from https://karger.com/uin/article-pdf/99/3/343/3603031/000477496.pdf
  8. Generic Drug Facts. (2021, November 1). FDA. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/generic-drugs/generic-drug-facts
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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]!

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