Erectile Dysfunction: Medication
Oral medication is often the first choice for treating erectile dysfunction (ED).
There are several types of medicines available, including pills, injectables, creams, and suppositories.
Your doctor can help you determine which option is right for you.
Oral Erectile Dysfunction Medication
Oral medication for ED boosts blood flow by increasing the effects of nitric oxide, a chemical in the body that relaxes muscles in the penis.
These kinds of medication are only available with a prescription from a physician.
According to the Urology Care Foundation, nearly 80 out of 100 men experience improvement once they start using oral drugs for ED.
Some of the most common oral medicines include:
- Viagra (sildenafil)
- Adcirca and Cialis (tadalafil)
- Levitra and Staxyn (vardenafil)
- Stendra (avanafil)
Viagra (sildenafil) is often the first drug doctors prescribe for ED. It’s been on the market the longest and its side effects are well known. But a newer medicine, Stendra (avanafil), may pose fewer side effects.
Men with ED take oral meds as needed, before having sex. These drugs won’t produce an erection unless you’re sexually stimulated.
Your dosage will depend on your condition and the medicine you take. The specific time to take the medication varies depending on the particular medication.
Side effects of oral ED drugs include:
- Nasal congestion
- Muscle aches
- Vision changes
- Upset stomach
In rare cases, some men who take ED medicines develop an erection that lasts longer than four hours. Seek medical attention right away if this happens to you.
It’s important to tell your doctor about all other health conditions you have. Some ED medication might be dangerous if you have heart disease, heart failure, or low blood pressure.
Be sure to tell your physician about all the medicines you take before starting on an oral ED drug. It’s especially important to let your doctor know if you use nitrates (for a heart condition) or alpha-blockers (for prostate enlargement).
Testosterone Therapy for Treating Erectile Dysfunction
If ED is caused by low levels of the hormone testosterone, your doctor might recommend testosterone therapy.
This type of treatment can be given in the form of creams, gels, patches, injections, or pellets.
Risks and side effects of testosterone therapy may include:
- Enlarged or swollen breasts
- Disturbed breathing while sleeping
- Ankle swelling
- Testicle shrinkage
- An enlarged prostate
- Growth of existing prostate cancer
- High red cell blood count
- Problems urinating
- An increased risk of having a blood clot
Talk to your doctor to see if you’re a candidate for testosterone therapy.
Injectable Medication for Treating ED
Some men with ED benefit from injectable medicines. To take these medicines, you use a small needle to inject the drug Edex (alprostadil) into the base or side of your penis.
Injectable ED medication produces an automatic erection.
Alprostadil is sometimes injected along with taking other medicines.
Each injection is intended to produce an erection that lasts no longer than an hour.
Side effects could include mild bleeding, a prolonged erection, and fibrous tissue that forms at the site of the injection.
Suppository Erectile Dysfunction Medication
Rather than injecting medicines, some men use suppositories to place alprostadil inside the penis, into the urethra.
A suppository is a solid medicine that dissolves in your body when inserted.
You’ll use a special applicator to insert the suppository.
With this method, an erection usually begins within 10 minutes and typically lasts between 30 and 60 minutes.
Side effects of suppositories can include minor bleeding, pain, and fibrous tissue that forms inside your penis.
Medicines for Treating Other Conditions Contributing to ED
Your doctor might prescribe medication to treat other conditions that are causing your ED symptoms.
These may include drugs to treat:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Kidney disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Peyronie’s disease (scar tissue inside the penis)
- Nerve disorders
- Sleep disorders
Treating the underlying medical condition can help improve symptoms of ED.
Sometimes, a medicine you need for another health condition can actually cause ED. Your doctor might suggest a different medicine or adjust your dose if this is the case.
Out-of-Pocket Cost for Erectile Dysfunction Medication
The amount of money you pay for an ED medication will depend on your insurance coverage and pharmacy price.
Even if your insurance policy does cover ED treatments, you might be limited to a certain number of doses each month.
The out-of-pocket cost per pill typically ranges from about $15 to $20.
It’s a good idea to shop around because pharmacy prices may differ. You can also ask your doctor if it’s okay to get your pills at a higher dose than you need and then divide them up. This can be a money-saver.
Additionally, try looking for pharmaceutical manufacturer discount programs that offer a better price.
- Mayo Clinic. Erectile Dysfunction. Diagnosis and Treatment.
- Urology Care Foundation. How is ED Treated?
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIH). Treatment for Erectile Dysfunction.
- Cleveland Clinic. Erectile Dysfunction.
- Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School. Which Drug for Erectile Dysfunction?
Last Updated: 12/20/2017