Since the first licensed oral treatment for erectile dysfunction became available in 1998, medicines for ED have tended to be prescription only. This is because they aren’t always suitable for some men, or may have to be used with caution; so prior consultation with a doctor or pharmacy prescriber is advised.

In 2018, Pfizer released Viagra Connect. While not quite ‘over-the-counter’ (it’s a pharmacy medicine so still requires health screening from a pharmacist prior to being issued) this did signal an easing of restrictions on these sorts of treatments. 

This was partly done to offset the number of men who, not wanting to have to consult with a doctor, were turning to illicit providers to get treatment.

Since then some pharmaceutical companies have applied for similar reclassification of their versions of the drug (generic Sildenafil 50mg). However, all other licensed ED treatments, at time of writing, were prescription only.

What is Viagra Connect and how do I get it? 

In short, Viagra Connect is a repackaged version of the 50mg dose of Viagra. Unlike regular Viagra, it can be issued without a prescription, by a pharmacist. The decision was taken by the MHRA to make the drug available as a ‘P’ or pharmacy medicine in 2017, and it was released onto the market in 2018. As noted by the manufacturer in the product literature:

It is a well-established and well-tolerated treatment and provides men with access without prescription to a legal ED medication and professional health advice from the pharmacy.”

Who can use Viagra Connect? 

In short, Viagra Connect can be issued to men over the age of 18 and experiencing ED, and not at risk of side effects due to contraindications or taking other medicines. Viagra Connect is in a class of medicines known as phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors (PDE5i). These work by relaxing the blood vessels. 

PDE5 inhibitors can have significant effects on the body. Because of this, there are a number of contraindications for Viagra that need to be taken into consideration, and some men will find themselves precluded from being able to take these types of treatments.

Are there any over the counter treatments for ED? 

At the moment there aren’t any licensed medicines for erectile dysfunction that you can get over the counter (OTC). Viagra Connect, as a pharmacy medicine, is the closest option.

But there are non-medicinal treatments you can get OTC.

Herbal remedies for impotence, such as Ginkgo Biloba and Horny Goat Weed, are usually available without the need for prior consultation with a healthcare professional. However, little is known about how effective they are. For some men, they may not be safe to use, so it’s always better to discuss these options with a doctor before exploring them further.

Vacuum constriction pumps (VCPs) don’t require prescriptions and are readily available to buy online. While they’re useful for a lot of men and produce an erection firm enough for sex for a short time, they’re not as discreet to use as many ED treatments.

Lifestyle changes that treat ED, such as quitting smoking, cutting down on alcohol, getting more exercise and eating a healthy, balanced diet, aren’t treatments as such. But they are solutions that a doctor can advise, without having to issue a prescription.

Page last reviewed:  28/07/2020