3 Things to Know About the Erectile Dysfunction Drug Cialis

PHOTO: Cialis tablets are pictured on a tray at a New York pharmacy on Tuesday, May 18, 2004. U.S. prescriptions of Viagra declined about 9.1 percent in April from a year ago since Eli Lilly & Co. and Icos Corp. unveiled their longer-lasting Cialis pill.
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The makers of Cialis are pushing to make their blockbuster erectile dysfunction drug available over-the-counter – a move that could land the little orange tablet on drug store shelves alongside decongestants and other bathroom cabinet staples.

Sanofi and Eli Lilly announced plans Wednesday to seek regulatory approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sell Cialis without a prescription. As they strive to prove that it can be sold safely without a doctor’s guidance, here are some things you might not know about the ED drug.

Things You Didn't Know About Cialis

Cialis is different from Viagra

Viagra was developed to treat pulmonary hypertension and angina, but patients in the late 1990s told their doctors about a side effect popping up in a place they never expected: the bedroom.

Cialis, on the other hand, was developed a few years later for the sole purpose of treating erectile dysfunction, and was approved in 2003. Unlike Viagra, it can be taken daily or “as-needed” within 36 hours of sex. Viagra works for roughly four hours and must be taken 30 to 60 minutes before sex, according to the drug’s website.

Although Viagra, dubbed “the little blue pill,” was the king of the market for years, Cialis beat it in 2013, reaching nearly $2.2 billion in sales in 2013 compared to Viagra’s $1.9 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Things You Didn't Know About Cialis

Your erection could come with a runny nose

Cialis’s side effects range from nasal congestion to sudden blindness, according to the drug’s website. Runny nose, headache and indigestion are among the pill’s most common side effects, and sudden hearing and vision loss are rarer possibilities.

And then there’s the well-advertised warning about erections lasting more than four hours. If not treated promptly, the condition called priapism can cause “lasting damage” and may result in an “inability to have erections,” according to the Cialis website.

Things You Didn't Know About Cialis

Cialis may have OTC restrictions

It’s too soon to know whether the FDA will allow Cialis out from behind the pharmacy counter. And even if it does, the pill might not be available to everyone.

The emergency contraceptive pill Plan B had a bumpy road to over-the-counter status after Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA’s recommendation that it be sold on pharmacy shelves to everyone in 2011.

President Barack Obama had said that as a father of young girls, he personally was against the sale of the pill without restrictions to women under 17.

A federal judge ruled in April 2013 that Plan B be available without age restrictions, but it still took two months for the Obama administration to stop trying to block its over-the-counter status. The FDA approved the move that June.

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