Gents, don’t buy that fake ‘viagra’ online. It isn’t worth it

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It is a booming industry that thrives on illegal networks, imports and dodgy home laboratories that cook up products that can contain, at best, no active ingredients, or, even worse, the wrong active ingredient. At the very worst, they’ll contain rat poison.

Just last week, Gauteng police and the Hawks were tipped off to suspicious activity in a house in Brackenhurst, Alberton, where they uncovered an elaborate sex-enhancing drug manufacturing plant and arrested one woman.

In the period from April 1 last year to March this year, the SA Revenue Service reported 170 busts of Viagra and generic Viagra tablets, valued at more than R64 million, at OR Tambo International Airport.

The Brackenhurst bust was also just one in a spate of similar busts and arrests of this nature to have been made by police in the province over the years.

Experts on erectile dysfunction (ED) medication are raising a red flag about the very real health risks posed by these illegal “sex enhancers” that are hitting the streets. Often, the layman buying them – frequently online – is unaware of the dangers of purchasing his performance-enhancing drugs via this route.

ED is very common, so there is really no shame in seeking help

Nicole Jennings, spokesperson at Pharma Dynamics, a provider of generic ED medication, told City Press this week: “One of the main concerns is the safety of these products. If a medicine is not regulated with our main regulating authority, the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra), then there’s no guarantee that these products have been tested.

“The best-case scenario would be that you might be taking a medicine that has lost its efficacy or doesn’t contain any active ingredients, so it won’t actually have any impact on erectile dysfunction. However, you also don’t know which ingredients the drug contains,” said Jennings.

“The worst-case scenario would be that you’re taking a medication that contains active ingredients, but they have expired, are in unsafe doses, haven’t been packaged in the right way, or have had direct exposure to sunlight, dampness or different temperatures.

“These all affect the drug and can have an impact on the patient.”

According to Sahpra, medicines such as Viagra, Dynafil and Avigra – which contain sildenafil, a substance used in the treatment of ED – are the only ones approved by the authority to treat ED. They should not be taken without a doctor’s prescription and monitoring.

The worst-case scenario would be that you’re taking a medication that contains active ingredients, but they have expired, are in unsafe doses, haven’t been packaged in the right way, or have had direct exposure to sunlight, dampness or different temperatures

Although some fake and illegal medicines are detected and seized at customs departments at ports of entry, some still make their way into the country.

Industry experts said most of these illegal or counterfeit products were sold through online platforms and social media, and at smaller health shops and retail pharmacy outlets.

According to Jennings, one of the main reasons men still buy these illicit and counterfeit drugs for ED was the “misconception” that the legitimate versions were expensive. In addition, men struggling with erectile dysfunction fear the stigma associated with the condition.

The Urology Hospital in Pretoria said that estimates showed that, by 2025, 200 million men worldwide could be suffering from ED.

This increase would be the result of an ageing population, unhealthy eating habits, and the earlier onset of diabetes and obesity.

“There’s a lot of stigma that comes with approaching a doctor when suffering from ED. Many of these illicit dealers sell the counterfeit drugs online anonymously, so it removes that barrier of fear of talking to a health professional,” Jennings said.

“However, the reality is that you could be taking something that is life-threatening. It’s also not true that the legal drugs are expensive – they are actually available from as little as R15 per pill. ED is very common, so there is really no shame in seeking help.”

Portia Nkambule, the acting chief executive officer of Sahpra, said: “The activities of these clandestine production establishments pose a serious risk to consumer health and safety. Consumers are at risk from unsafe and ineffective products, and faulty counterfeit goods that can lead to harm and, in some cases, death.”

Nkambule pleaded with men to avoid buying these products online unless they had verified that the vendor was registered with the SA Pharmacy Council, the Health Professions Council of SA, the department of health or Sahpra.


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