Vardenafil hydrochloride, or just vardenafil, falls under a class of drugs known as phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE-5) inhibitors. A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way.

You can buy it under its generic name or under the brand names Levitra and Staxyn.

Vardenafil is FDA approved to treat erectile dysfunction (ED). It works by allowing more blood to flow to your penis and making it easier to achieve an erection.

Generic vardenafil is equally as safe and effective as the brand name versions but can be significantly cheaper.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about vardenafil, the generic version of Levitra and Staxyn.

Vardenafil and other PDE5 inhibitors help treat ED by allowing more blood to flow to your penis. To understand how these drugs work, it helps to understand the erection process.

  1. Once you become sexually aroused, your brain sends a message to the blood vessels in your penis to release a chemical called nitric oxide.
  2. Nitric oxide diffuses inside your blood vessels and stimulates the formation of another molecule called cGMP.
  3. cGMP relaxes the blood vessels in your penis and allows more blood to flow into its tissues.

Vardenafil inhibits the enzyme PDE5 that breaks down cGMP. Inhibiting this enzyme increases the amount of cGMP available in your blood vessels and allows more blood to flow to your penis.

Along with treating ED, some types of PDE5 inhibitors are also used to treat a condition called pulmonary hypertension.

Can vardenafil treat all forms of ED?

ED is a multifaceted condition with many potential causes such as:

Vardenafil and other PDE5 inhibitors are often the first-line treatment for treating ED when physical causes are suspected.

For example, it may be effective if poor circulation linked to diabetes or cardiovascular disease is causing your ED.

PDE5 inhibitors aren’t an effective treatment for ED that psychological factors such as stress or anxiety causes. If psychological causes are suspected, a doctor may recommend psychotherapy.

Vardenafil comes in tablets that range from 2.5 to 20 milligrams (mg). Your doctor can help you figure out what dose is right for you.

The recommended starting dose of vardenafil for most people is 10 mg taken about an hour before sexual activity. The dose can be increased to a maximum of 20 mg or decreased based on its effectiveness and the presence of side effects.

You shouldn’t take vardenafil more than once per day.

If you’re over age 65 years, your doctor may recommend a starting dose of 5 mg.

About 40 percent of people experience side effects that are usually mild when taking PDE5 inhibitors.

The most common side effects of vardenafil include:

Rarely, vardenafil and other PDE5 inhibitors can cause priapism, which is a painful erection lasting more than 6 hours.

If your erection lasts more than 4 hours, you should seek immediate medical attention to avoid permanent damage to your penis.

Other potential side effects of vardenafil include:

It’s important to discuss any medications or herbal supplements that you’re currently taking with your doctor before starting vardenafil. Vardenafil can potentially interact with a number of medications, including:

  • alpha-blockers and other medications used to manage blood pressure
  • guanylate cyclase stimulators (riociguat)
  • HIV protease inhibitors
  • medications that regulate your heartbeat
  • nitrates and nitric oxide donors
  • other PDE5 inhibitors like Viagra or Cialis.

Along with the medications above, vardenafil may interact with products containing grapefruit.

Taking vardenafil with alcohol may increase your risk for certain side effects.

Generic vardenafil is equally as safe and effective as Levitra or Staxyn.

Any drug on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) List of Authorized Generic Drugs functions the same as its brand name counterpart.

It may have minor differences such as flavor or color variation, but the manufacturer needs to apply for FDA approval showing that it meets the same standard as the brand-name drug.

Generic products are usually sold much cheaper because manufacturers don’t need to invest in researching and developing the drug.

Vardenafil compared to other PDE5 inhibitors

Three other PDE5 inhibitors are available for treating ED. Alternatives to vardenafil include:

  • sildenafil (Viagra)
  • tadalafil (Cialis)
  • avanafil (Stendra)

Any of the four types of drugs can be potentially effective. If you’ve never tried any of them, your doctor may recommend trying different ones until you find one that works well for you.

They may recommend taking sildenafil first as it’s the oldest of the four drugs and its potential side effects and interactions are the most well known.

Here’s a look at how the four PDE5 inhibitors compare:

When was it first available?2003199820032012
Generic available?yesyesyesno
How long before sexual activity should you take it?30–60 minutes30–60 minutes30 minutes15–30 minutes
How long does it last?5–7 hours4–6 hours24–36 hoursAbout 5 hours
What strength does it come in?2.5–20 mg 25–100 mg2.5–20 mg50–200 mg
What is a typical starting dose?10 mg (5 mg for men over age 65 years)50 mg100 mg100 mg

Generic vardenafil is usually much cheaper than its brand-name options, Staxyn or Levitra. The exact price varies depending on where you buy it.

According to data from Medicaid, the National Average Drug Acquisition Cost (NADAC) of a 10-mg tablet of Vardenafil is $23.05. The NADAC is the average price that pharmacies pay to buy the drug. You can expect to pay a higher amount.

You can find generic vardenafil at many pharmacies, and it requires a prescription to buy. Some pharmacies may sell various package sizes. In general, the price per tablet gets cheaper the larger the package.

Your insurance is unlikely to cover vardenafil or other medications to treat erectile dysfunction. Some insurance companies may cover it under its generic name but not the more expensive brand-name versions.

Vardenafil is the generic name of the drugs Levitra and Staxyn. It’s used to treat erectile dysfunction. If you’re currently dealing with ED, you can speak with a doctor to see if vardenafil is right for you.

Vardenafil can help treat ED caused by physical issues like poor circulation. However, if your ED is caused by psychological factors such as stress or anxiety, psychotherapy may be a more effective option.