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Last updated July 17, 2020. 3 minute read

Does Viagra expire? The shelf life of sildenafil

While no studies have been done specifically on expired Viagra, testing on other medications has found them to be stable anywhere from 1–5 years past the expiration date. However, this can vary based on the lot, the drug itself, the conditions in which it was stored, etc.

Dr Chimene Richa Md Written by Chimene Richa, MD
Reviewed by Mike Bohl, MD, MPH

Viagra is an FDA-approved oral medication for the treatment of erectile dysfunction (ED), which affects approximately 30 million men in the United States (AUA, 2018). Men who experience ED are unable to get or maintain an erection long enough to have satisfying sex. 

Viagra is a popular treatment for ED—most people have heard of the “little blue pill.” The active ingredient in Viagra is sildenafil citrate, which is also available as a generic medication at a lower cost than brand-name Viagra. Other ED drugs are also available, including vardenafil (brand name Levitra) and tadalafil (brand name Cialis), and your healthcare provider can help you decide which one is right for you.

Vitals

  • Viagra (aka the “little blue pill”) is an FDA-approved medication for the treatment of erectile dysfunction (ED).
  • Viagra belongs to a class of medications called phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5) inhibitors.
  • All prescription and over-the-counter drugs must have an expiration date on the packaging. This date refers to how long the drug is guaranteed to be stable.
  • You should not take Viagra past the expiration date as it may be less effective or have an increased chance of causing side effects.

How does Viagra work?

Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis are all phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5) inhibitors. PDE5 inhibitors help treat ED by relaxing the muscles in the penis to allow for more blood to flow to the area. Blood flow to the area is increased following relaxation, thereby making it easier for you to have and maintain a satisfactory erection.

You will need to take most PDE5 inhibitors anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours before engaging in sexual activity. However, Viagra alone will not give you a spontaneous erection—you still need to be sexually aroused for the medication to work.

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Does Viagra expire?

Starting in 1979, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required expiration dates on all prescription and over-the-counter drugs (FDA, 2016). But what does this date actually mean? The manufacturer’s expiration date refers to the stability of the drug in its original sealed packaging (its shelf life) (JAMA, 2016).

However, it does not mean that the drug becomes unstable once the expiration date has passed—it means that, based on the manufacturer’s data, the drug will still be stable at that point. Most medications have expiration dates around 1–5 years after packaging (JAMA, 2016).

While no studies have been done specifically on expired Viagra, testing on other medications has found them to be stable anywhere from 1–5 years past the expiration date (Lyon, 2006). However, this can vary based on the lot, the drug itself, the conditions in which it was stored, etc. Also, the expiration date refers only to medication in its original sealed packaging—once it is opened, the expiration date may no longer apply. 

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Because of this uncertainty, the FDA does not recommend that people use drugs past their expiration dates. There is always the chance that expired medications may be less effective due to a change in chemical composition over time (FDA, 2006). Medicines exposed to high heat or humidity may have degraded, leading to a weaker active ingredient (JAMA, 2016).

It’s no different in the case of Viagra. Once the medication has expired, there is no guarantee that it will be as effective as it had been. The common side effects of Viagra, under normal circumstances, include flushing, headaches, stomach problems, light sensitivity, runny nose, and body aches. But serious side effects can also occur—these include chest pain, erections that last longer than four hours, shortness of breath, and vision changes.

Once the drug is past its expiration date, it is difficult to know your likelihood of developing one of these effects, even if you have taken Viagra before. The best way to store Viagra is in a dry place that stays at room temperature. Avoid storing the drug in the bathroom where it can be exposed to humidity (UpToDate, n.d.).

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If your medication has expired, contact your healthcare provider to get a new prescription. Don’t flush your expired medications down the toilet. Instead, follow the FDA guidelines and mix your expired Viagra with an unpalatable substance, like dirt, coffee grounds, or kitty litter. Then place in a sealed plastic bag and throw it away in your household trash. Alternatively, you can take advantage of drug take-back programs (FDA, 2006).