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What Is Tadalafil (Generic Cialis)?

Middle-aged couple laughing in bed

In 2003, a company named Eli Lilly introduced Cialis as a treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED). Cialis contains the active ingredient ‘tadalafil’. Eli Lilly has had the patent on tadalafil until November 2017. Now that the patent has expired, other companies are legally permitted to make their own version of Tadalafil. As a generic version of the brand Cialis, the tadalafil medication is considerably cheaper.

How does Tadalafil work?

Tadalafil is classed as a PDE5 inhibitor and is a prescription only medication in the UK, licenced for men with erectile dysfunction (ED).  ED is defined as a condition where a man cannot get, or keep a hard, erect penis suitable for sexual activity.

Tadalafil has been shown in clinical studies to significantly improve the ability of obtaining a hard erection suitable for sexual activity for most men with ED. With sexual stimulation, Tadalafil works by helping the blood vessels in your penis to relax and open, allowing a good flow of blood into the penis. The result of which is improved erectile function. 

Tadalafil will not help you if you do not have ED. It is important to note that Tadalafil does not work if there is no sexual stimulation. You and your partner will need to engage in foreplay to increase arousal as usual, just as you would if you were not taking medicine for ED.

How long does Tadalafil last?

The effect of Tadalafil can last for up to 36 hours, allowing you to take the tablet plenty of time before you wish to have sex and so allowing for more spontaneity.  This is where Tadalafil differs from the other oral ED medicines - which last for 4-5 hours.

Importantly, Tadalafil needs to be taken at least 30 minutes before sex.   The onset of the action of Tadalafil is not affected by food but its effectiveness may be reduced by alcohol.

How is Tadalafil taken?

Tadalafi (generic Cialis) can be taken in two different ways, either on an 'as required' basis or as a lower dose on a daily basis. When using Tadalafil 'as required, a tablet is taken at least 30 minutes before you wish to have sex. The daily treatment is currently only available as the brand Cialis Daily. This is taken every day, generally at the same time to maintain a constant level in the body.  A daily dose may be more suited to you if you regularly have sex more than twice a week. Cialis Daily tablets offer a way to avoid the need for planning and can potentially truly restore the thrill of spontaneity to your sex life. Studies have shown that taking one tablet every day is effective even for those men with severe ED; side effects were shown to be lower than with the 'as required' medication. When taking Tadalafil 'as required', the usual starting dose is 10mg.  If 10mg is not effective and the drug is well tolerated, then the dose can be increased to the maximum 'as required' dose of 20mg after consultation with the doctor.

What are the side effects of Tadalafil?

Side effects are uncommon, but can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and an allergic rash. It can also cause facial flushing, headache and, rarely, back-pain.

If Tadalafil doesn’t work for you the first time it is used, it could be more effective next time. Indeed, the manufacturers’ advice is to try any erectile dysfunction medicine on 8 separate occasions before increasing the dose or switching to a different agent as there is good evidence for cumulative benefit.