The week before Christmas the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released 14 public notifications about sex enhancement supplements that were tainted with hidden active ingredients, specifically undeclared sildenafil, which is the active ingredient in Viagra. According to Vocativ, before issuing these 14 notifications the FDA had already posted 33 other warnings about tainted sexual enhancement products in 2016.
Caught in a routine inspection by the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs when the drugs were shipped from overseas, these are likely only a tiny fraction of similarly misrepresented products. The agency isn’t able to test all products on the market that contain potentially harmful ingredients and it has little regulatory power over supplements.
Because of this, the agency warns consumers to be aware of the “emerging trend” and to protect themselves from products that can harm them.
“Hidden ingredients are increasingly becoming a problem in products promoted for sexual enhancement,” the FDA states.
“Funny as it might seem to see these supplements busted for being, you know, real drugs, there’s a danger to be aware of here,” said Vocativ. These supplements are available over-the-counter, yet they contain unknown amounts of a prescription-only ingredient.
Sildenafil can have unpredictable and dangerous interactions with other drugs, particularly blood pressure medication that contains nitroglycerin or other nitrates. Vocativ warns its readers that people have died and gone into comas from taking supplements laced with Viagra.
Those who are inadvertently taking sildenafil through tainted sexual enhancement products are also being exposed to that drug’s own hidden risks. Pfizer, Viagra’s manufacturer, is currently being sued by hundreds of men who claim that they should have been warned about the drug’s alleged link to melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.
In the past several years researchers have found that sildenafil, as a PDE5 inhibitor, causes melanoma to grow more rapidly. The FDA is looking into the need for regulatory action regarding all PDE5 inhibitors.
“The cherry on top is the fact that virtually no over-promising supplements, whether for boosting your bedroom prowess or losing weight, are good at their jobs, at least if they aren’t laced with the real deal,” said Vocativ. “All in all, it’s worth reminding everyone of a familiar but relevant cliché: If it sounds too to be good, it definitely is.”