ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION ∙ 2 minutes read

The little blue pill vs. the little white pill: is there a difference?

By Emily Cameron

You’ve probably heard of Viagra being commonly referred to as “the little blue pill”, and its distinctive blue colour is synonymous with the treatment of erectile dysfunction (ED). Sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, is manufactured in a variety of colours, but most commonly in either blue or white. But does the colour and shape of your pill make a difference in the effectiveness of the treatment? 

My “little blue pill” isn’t blue, it’s white. Is this normal?

When Viagra was first approved as a treatment for ED in 1998, it was marketed as “the little blue pill”. The small, blue, diamond-shaped pill was patented by Viagra, meaning that both its appearance and active ingredient were exclusive to Viagra and couldn’t be copied by other manufacturers. 

After Pfizer’s patent for Viagra expired in 2013, sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra) was made more widely available for manufacturing by other companies. Nowadays, many manufacturers continue to make sildenafil as a blue-coloured pill, but it also comes in a variety of other shapes and colours, and is sometimes manufactured as a white pill. This is commonplace, and, as with many types of generic medication, you may find that the appearance of your pills sometimes changes each time you order them. However, don’t worry; the active ingredients and effectiveness of the treatment remain the same. 

What is the difference between sildenafil and Viagra?

The main difference between sildenafil and Viagra is that Viagra is branded, and sildenafil is the generic, or unbranded, version of it. As both sildenafil and Viagra contain the same active ingredient, sildenafil citrate, they are both effective treatments for men with ED. All generic medication has to contain the same active ingredient to ensure it works in the same way as its brand-name equivalent.

Why is generic medication often cheaper than the brand-name equivalent?

Branded medication is often more expensive than generic medication. Any new brand-name medication will pitch the price relative to the amount of initial research needed to develop and prepare the treatment for marketing approval. Generic medication can typically be 20-90% cheaper than its brand-name equivalent because of this.

The other important factor in pricing is competition: as sildenafil is widely available for manufacture, the price is more competitive (and therefore cheaper).  

Is generic medication less effective than brand-name medication?

A 2019 study was conducted into the effectiveness of generic medication, which found that there was no difference between how generic and brand-name medication works. Even though generic sildenafil is unbranded, it is still an effective treatment for ED and works in the same way as Viagra. 

The bottom line

Both Viagra and sildenafil are considered effective treatments for ED. The colour and shape of the pill have no impact on how effective the treatment is. The main difference between generic medication, such as sildenafil, and brand-name medication, such as Viagra, is the purchase price and the appearance of the pill. 

{ed-cta}