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Review shows dangers of erectile dysfunction drugs sold on the internet

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

A review from scientist in the UK, US and Sweden reveals that 90 percent of drugs for erectile dysfunction are now sold on the internet. Purchasing drugs to treat ED and other diseases from the internet can harm health by bypassing needed health. Many of the drugs also contain harmful ingredients.

The dangers of counterfeit drugs sold on the internet can also pose health risks from the impurity of the products. According to a review of studies, 2.3 million drugs for erectile dysfunction are sold monthly on the internet and mostly without prescription. Additionally, 44 per cent of the Viagra offered on the internet is counterfeit.

The focus of the analysis was on drugs sold on the internet to treat erectile dysfunction from 1995 to 2009, and included more than 50 studies.

Graham Jackson, a London-based cardiologist who led the study says, "We discovered that 150 patients had been admitted to hospitals in Singapore after taking counterfeit tadalfil [Cialis] and herbal preparations that claimed to cure ED. Seven were comatose, as the drugs contained a powerful drug used to treat diabetes, and four subsequently died."

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Jackson warns that erectile dysfunction drugs are not the only counterfeit medications sold on the internet. "In Argentina, two pregnant women died after being given injections of a counterfeit iron preparation for anaemia and 51 children died in Bangladesh of kidney failure after taking paracetamol [acetaminophen] syrup contaminated with diethylene glycol, which is widely used as car antifreeze.”

Fake drugs sold on the internet included contraceptive and antimalaria pills, counterfeit antibiotics and water sold as a vaccine for meningitis. According to rough estimates, there could be as many as 2.5 million men in the Europe using counterfeit Viagra obtained from the internet without physician prescription or medical exam because of the embarrassment associated with erectile dysfunction. Analysis of ED drugs shows that some contain active ingredients while others contain contaminants that could harm health.

An analysis of Viagra seized by law enforcement agents revealed that a Hungarian sample contained amphetamine. In the UK, the “little blue pill” Viagra was colored with printer ink and contained caffeine and bulk lactose. Out of 370 alleged Viagra samples sold on the internet, seized by authorities, and then analyzed by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health, only 10 were genuine - the rest contained a variety of other drugs.

Fake drugs sold on the internet are profitable, and laws that apply in one country may not apply in another, making control of sales difficult. The World Health Organization views internet sales of drugs as a community health hazard that needs to be stopped. Jackson explains that “obstacles to effective action include the lack of a clear worldwide consensus on what constitutes a counterfeit drug and the fact that activities that are illegal in one country may be legal in another."

The study authors say clinicians should warn the public of the potential harm that can ensue from buying counterfeit drugs on the internet. In some cases selling fake drugs on the internet for erectile dysfunction and other health condition can be ten times as profitable per kilogram as heroin for unscrupulous marketers. The sale of counterfeit drugs can also lead people to avoid need health care, leaving conditions such as hypertension and diabetes undiagnosed.

Resource: Interscience