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How to Get Viagra: Do You Need A Prescription?

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Reviewed by Mike Bohl, MD

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 10/27/2020

Updated 03/29/2024

Viagra® (and the generic medication sildenafil) may be one of the most popular ED medications available today, but to take them, you need a prescription from a healthcare provider.

If you’re wondering where to get Viagra, it’s true that there are plenty of places where you can buy this prescription drug in “discreet packaging,” and there are many supplements on the market today that claim to work like or contain some Viagra. But most experts agree that these can be unsafe —  or outright dangerous.

Below, we’ve shared all the ways you can get Viagra safely and effectively, and which ways to avoid it, like ordering non-prescription Viagra “alternatives”.

Do you need a prescription for Viagra?

Do you need a prescription for Viagra? Straight answer: Yes. 

Viagra has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration since the late 1990s, but since then both Viagra and sildenafil have remained prescription-only medications.

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

People googling “Can you buy Viagra over the counter” from elsewhere may see different results, however. Laws regarding the sale of Viagra vary in other countries. 

For example, Viagra is available over the counter in the United Kingdom 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.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Buy Viagra?

Despite the commercials showing older fellows, ED can affect guys of all ages. It may become more common as we age, but it's not exclusively an "older" man’s issue.

So although advertising for ED medication often focuses on older men, Viagra can actually be prescribed to those 18 and up. 

Getting a prescription for Viagra isn’t usually difficult. To get a prescription, you need to talk to your general healthcare provider (you can use your regular provider or connect with one of ours), or a specialist (like a urologist). 

For most men, Viagra works as 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 will gradually resolve with time, but some side effects can be more serious. This is the main reason why Viagra is only available with a prescription.

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

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

Some of these interactions can be fatal. That’s another reason Viagra is only available by prescription: because higher dosages can increase the risk of experiencing adverse effects, it's important to have a healthcare provider monitor your dosage, with an eye on side effects and drug interactions like the ones we’ve listed below: 

Side Effects

Common side effects of Viagra include:

  • Headache 

  • Flushing 

  • Dyspepsia (indigestion) 

  • Changes in your vision 

  • Nasal congestion 

  • Back pain and myalgia (muscle pain) 

  • Rash 

  • Dizziness 

  • Feelings of nausea

Although uncommon, Viagra may also cause more serious side effects that include:

  • Hearing issues

  • Sudden vision loss

  • Priapism (a type of persistent, painful erection that 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. However, it’s always important to seek medical advice, discuss your medical history and get the right dose of Viagra from your prescribing local or online doctor.

Our guide to Viagra side effects provides more information about the issues that can occur with Viagra and generic sildenafil.

Drug Interactions

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

For example, when Viagra and other PDE5 inhibitors are used with nitrates, they can cause your blood pressure to drop. Low blood pressure may cause you to feel dizzy or 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 like the Viagra pill.

Certain recreational drugs, like “poppers,” contain ingredients like nitrites that can also interact with ED medications and potentially cause serious health problems.

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Where can you buy Viagra? Quite a few places, actually, once you have a prescription.

Here are the ones we recommend:

Get Viagra Online with a Prescription

You can buy Viagra online with a prescription safely and effectively. 

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

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

The online healthcare provider will  talk to you about your experiences with ED and, if they consider you a good candidate for Viagra, they'll write you a prescription for Viagra, sildenafil citrate (generic Viagra) or  a different ED medication.  

Visit Your Local Healthcare Provider’s Office

You can also get a prescription for Viagra from your primary care provider. Worried about having to discuss your ED issues with them? There’s no need. What you're experiencing is perfectly normal — and your doctor’s heard it all before.

If you have difficulty developing or maintaining an erection, 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.

Visit a Urologist 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 like a urologist (a doctor that specializes in the urinary and reproductive tract).

They may also refer you to a psychiatrist or other mental health professional if they believe that your ED is related to a psychological 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.

Choose your chew

You can’t legally purchase Viagra without a prescription in the United States or 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, it’s not a good idea to purchase it. This is for two main reasons: 

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

  • Many websites that claim to sell Viagra without a prescription aren’t run by trustworthy, reputable businesses. This puts you at risk for potentially buying fake medication, and also may reveal your personal and financial information to unsafe sellers.

Pfizer, the company that developed sildenafil and makes brand name Viagra, has invested a lot of time and money into investigating the “Viagra” that’s sold online. Their testing has revealed that many counterfeit pills contain “ingredients” such as printer ink, commercial paint, pesticides and wallboard. These are not things you’d want to use to treat ED under any circumstances.

The tests also found that many drugs advertised online only contained 30 to 50 percent of the dosage of sildenafil that was claimed on the product labeling.

Put simply, when you buy Viagra or generic Viagra online without a prescription, you might not get Viagra. 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.

How to Buy Viagra Safely

It’s easy to get and use Viagra safely once you understand the process: You’ll meet with a healthcare provider who will write you a prescription if appropriate. Beyond going to your local pharmacy, you can try a reputable accredited internet pharmacy. 

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, avoid it.

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

If you think a different ED medication might be more appropriate for you, you can talk with a healthcare provider about using one of the other FDA-approved treatment options:

  • Cialis. Sold as brand name Cialis or generic tadalafil, this is a longer-lasting medication that can last for up to 36 hours or be used on a daily basis (at a lower dose) 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 in as little as 15 minutes, making it a good option if you’re prone to side effects from other ED medications or need fast-acting relief.

  • Levitra. Available as brand name Levitra or generic vardenafil, this is another as-needed ED medication that’s taken an hour before sex and lasts roughly four to six hours.

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Whether you’re ready to take Viagra or just beginning to gather information, here are the most important things to know:

  • It’s a prescription medication, meaning you’ll need a valid prescription from your healthcare provider first. 

  • That doesn’t have to happen in person. You can talk to a healthcare provider online or schedule an appointment with a specialist remotely. 

  • You can get your prescription filled online. We offer Viagra and other erectile dysfunction medications online, following a consultation. 

  • Don’t use “OTC” alternatives. Pills that aren’t Viagra shouldn’t be marketed like Viagra — if they are, they could be dangerous.

Ready to get started? You can 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. 

17 Sources

  1. Dhaliwal, A. & Gupta, M. (2021, June 25). PDE5 Inhibitors. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK549843/
  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, et al. (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. LEVITRA (vardenafil hydrochloride) tablets, for oral use (2017, August) Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2017/021400s020lbl.pdf.
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. Know the Risks. (2013, September 24). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/besaferx-your-source-online-pharmacy-information/know-risks
  14. 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
  15. Tainted Sexual Enhancement Products. (2021, December 8). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/medication-health-fraud/tainted-sexual-enhancement-products
  16. Chamsi-Pasha H. Sildenafil (viagra) and the heart. J Family Community Med. 2001 May;8(2):63-6. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3437061/
  17. James JS. Viagra warning re "poppers" and notice re protease inhibitors. AIDS Treat News. 1998 May 1;(No 294):1. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11365402/
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.

Mike Bohl, MD

Dr. Mike Bohl is a licensed physician, a Medical Advisor at Hims & Hers, and the Director of Scientific & Medical Content at a stealth biotech startup, where he is involved in pharmaceutical drug development. Prior to joining Hims & Hers, Dr. Bohl spent several years working in digital health, focusing on patient education. He has also worked in medical journalism for The Dr. Oz Show (receiving recognition for contributions from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences when the show won Outstanding Informative Talk Show at the 2016–2017 Daytime Emmy® Awards) and at Sharecare. He is a Medical Expert Board Member at Eat This, Not That! and a Board Member at International Veterinary Outreach.

Dr. Bohl obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Medicine from Brown University, his Master of Public Health from Columbia University, and his Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies—Journalism from Harvard University. He is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership at Cornell University. Dr. Bohl trained in internal medicine with a focus on community health at NYU Langone Health.

Dr. Bohl is Certified in Public Health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners, Medical Writer Certified by the American Medical Writers Association, a certified Editor in the Life Sciences by the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, a Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Nutrition Coach by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and a Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist by the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs. He has graduate certificates in Digital Storytelling and Marketing Management & Digital Strategy from Harvard Extension School and certificates in Business Law and Corporate Governance from Cornell Law School.

In addition to his written work, Dr. Bohl has experience creating medical segments for radio and producing patient education videos. He has also spent time conducting orthopedic and biomaterial research at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland and practicing clinically as a general practitioner on international medical aid projects with Medical Ministry International.

Dr. Bohl lives in Manhattan and enjoys biking, resistance training, sailing, scuba diving, skiing, tennis, and traveling. You can find Dr. Bohl on LinkedIn for more information.

Publications

  • Younesi, M., Knapik, D. M., Cumsky, J., Donmez, B. O., He, P., Islam, A., Learn, G., McClellan, P., Bohl, M., Gillespie, R. J., & Akkus, O. (2017). Effects of PDGF-BB delivery from heparinized collagen sutures on the healing of lacerated chicken flexor tendon in vivo. Acta biomaterialia, 63, 200–209. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1742706117305652?via%3Dihub

  • Gebhart, J. J., Weinberg, D. S., Bohl, M. S., & Liu, R. W. (2016). Relationship between pelvic incidence and osteoarthritis of the hip. Bone & joint research, 5(2), 66–72. https://boneandjoint.org.uk/Article/10.1302/2046-3758.52.2000552

  • Gebhart, J. J., Bohl, M. S., Weinberg, D. S., Cooperman, D. R., & Liu, R. W. (2015). Pelvic Incidence and Acetabular Version in Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis. Journal of pediatric orthopedics, 35(6), 565–570. https://journals.lww.com/pedorthopaedics/abstract/2015/09000/pelvic_incidence_and_acetabular_version_in_slipped.5.aspx

  • Islam, A., Bohl, M. S., Tsai, A. G., Younesi, M., Gillespie, R., & Akkus, O. (2015). Biomechanical evaluation of a novel suturing scheme for grafting load-bearing collagen scaffolds for rotator cuff repair. Clinical biomechanics (Bristol, Avon), 30(7), 669–675. https://www.clinbiomech.com/article/S0268-0033(15)00143-6/fulltext

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