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medical doctor holding a document with an Rx on it.

Over the Counter Viagra vs. Over the Internet Viagra

The name “Viagra” is so commonly used that it has almost become an eponym for any erectile dysfunction (ED) treatment, much like we use the term Band-Aid to refer to any adhesive bandage. Unfortunately, when a word is so heavily used, it can start to lose meaning and importance. That’s the case with Viagra, where the brand name is frequently misappropriated to describe products that are not Viagra.

In this article, we discuss the difference between brand and generic prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and supplements, and touch on why there’s no such thing as over-the-counter Viagra. You’ll learn about the pitfalls and perils of buying ED drugs online without a prescription, and how you can avoid them entirely by ordering your erectile dysfunction medication from a trusted, US-based telehealth provider like eDrugstore.com.

Rx vs. OTC Viagra

First, let’s define some terms. The United States has two types of drugs: prescription-only (Rx) and over-the-counter (OTC). Rx meds typically have effects that could harm a patient if used without a doctor’s supervision. OTC drugs aren’t likely to harm a patient if taken according to the directions.

Both Rx and OTC drugs come in brand-name (Viagra and Zyrtec, for example) and generic (sildenafil and cetirizine) versions. The brand and generic of any particular drug are considered identical, but generic drugs are significantly less expensive because there may be several drug makers manufacturing their own versions, creating competition that drives prices down.

Supplementary Supplement Information

Now things get murkier. There are a countless number of products that you can buy over-the-counter that you may take for one benefit or another, but that aren’t classified as OTC drugs. This includes multivitamins, amino acids, plant extracts and more, but they can also take the form of “herbal Viagra” and “male enhancement” pills that are readily available at the finest convenience stores and gas stations across the United States.

These items are considered dietary supplements by the FDA, not drugs. Believe it or not, this places them outside of the FDA’s regulatory jurisdiction and the quality/purity requirements that otherwise protect both Rx and OTC drugs. Supplement manufacturers don’t need to get FDA approval or even notify the FDA to market and sell their products. Besides some loose requirements for labeling and safety, they also don’t have compliance obligations to any standards for quality and potency. This leaves the door wide open for unscrupulous manufacturing practices, and when problems emerge, the results can be devastating.

In an example from 2019, poison centers in central Virginia began reporting unusual cases of severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in men after using a “male enhancement” supplement called V8 purchased at a local gas station. Lab analysis showed the tablets contained glyburide, a diabetes medicine that causes the pancreas to release insulin to lower your blood sugar. Blood sugar below 50 mg/dL can cause irreversible damage to the brain and nervous system, and the risk of death increases as blood sugar continues to decrease. Seventeen men were poisoned by this product, and it was very fortunate no one died.

Why Can’t I Just Buy Viagra on the Internet Without a Script?

You may have seen websites offering “Viagra” for sale without a prescription and wondered if it was a legit operation.

Spoiler Alert: Probably not.

Viagra and its generic version, sildenafil, are prescription-only drugs in the United States (and many other countries). That means it’s illegal to buy or sell them without a prescription from a doctor. Because Viagra works so well for an embarrassing sexual health issue that affects so many men, there is an intense demand for it that people are willing to go around the health system to satisfy.

But going around the health system also goes around the mechanisms it uses to protect patients from being harmed by dangerous, adulterated, and contaminated drugs. As a result, Viagra has become the most counterfeited drug in the world, and a large percentage of Viagra sold on the internet is fake or adulterated. In many instances, tablets that looked like brand-name Viagra had no sildenafil in them at all. Others contained the wrong amount of sildenafil, or worse, contained other dangerous drugs like fentanyl or poisonous substances like quinine.

Medical technician holding a glass tube and dropper.

Unfortunately, Viagra is a ripe target for counterfeiting, as it presents a perfect storm of conditions to drive demand to the black market:

Restricted Access: It’s illegal to obtain except by prescription, which requires a doctor’s office visit.

High Efficacy: Viagra is extremely effective at what it does, and people want it.

Relieves Embarrassing Problem: It specifically helps men with their sexual performance, which is an often embarrassing area of worry and anxiety for many men living with erectile dysfunction.

If Not Over-the-Counter, Then How About Behind It?

Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as “over-the-counter Viagra”. But starting in 2018, the United Kingdom began relaxing regulations to allow Viagra to be sold without a prescription by a pharmacist (chemist). The product, Viagra Connect, is made by pharma giant Pfizer, and is only available as a brand-name tablet in the 50 milligram strength.

Despite the media’s tendency to lean on the term over-the-counter, Viagra Connect still isn’t true OTC because men still need to ask for the product and consult with the pharmacist as to their health and the ED symptoms they’re experiencing. This gives the pharmacist an opportunity to identify any health problems, drug interactions, or contraindications that would make treatment with Viagra dangerous to a patient.

Pharmacist handing a filled prescription to a customer.

Pfizer developed the Viagra Connect program specifically because so many men were ordering “Viagra” online without a prescription and receiving fakes or dangerous counterfeits. Their hope is that by making it easier to obtain medication for ED, more men will be encouraged to be proactive in seeking treatment for erectile dysfunction within the healthcare system, where safeguards exist to protect the pharmaceutical supply chain.

Telemedicine Solves the Access Problem

In the United States, telehealth providers like eDrugstore.com have been taking the initiative to remove the barriers to treatment many men face. Technology has tranformed the process of getting ED treatment from an inconvenient, embarrassing ordeal to a proactive, empowering health decision by allowing patients to connect directly with a doctor to discuss erectile dysfunction and other sexual health issues via confidential videoconference.

Simple, convenient, and secure, eDrugstore.com is here to guide you through the entire process, from consultation to filling your prescription and delivering it to your door in discreet, plain packaging. We guarantee that when you receive your first order, you’ll be thinking, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”

Make today the day you take control of your sexual health and well-being. Click here to create an account and get started.

Randall is a medical writer with years of experience in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. After earning his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, he worked as an infusion and specialty pharmacist, where he discovered his passion for making trustworthy healthcare information accessible to everyone.