The dangers of sexual enhancement supplements and counterfeit drugs to “treat” erectile dysfunction
Counterfeit phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors (PDE-5i) are an increasing problem. Already in widespread use, the market for PDE-5i is steadily growing as the population ages. Counterfeiters are taking advantage of this growing market by developing illicit and counterfeit PDE-5i products. Many factors are contributing to the rapid growth of the illicit market, such as the low risk of prosecution, potentially high financial reward, and ease of distribution via Internet pharmacies. Consumers of illicit PDE-5i often do not realize they are using counterfeit products and placing themselves at an unnecessary health risk. Others seek to bypass the legitimate healthcare system due to either embarrassment of the underlying condition or desire for cheaper alternatives. However, taking illicit PDE-5i may harm consumers directly, as many illicit products contain detrimental contaminants and inaccurate amounts of the active ingredient without the appropriate warnings. Bypassing the legitimate healthcare system also endangers consumers indirectly, as erectile dysfunction (ED) is often associated with other medical comorbidities that patients should be screened for. Furthermore, PDE-5i can have potentially dangerous interactions with other pharmaceuticals that are rarely warned against with counterfeit PDE-5i. This communication reviews the literature regarding counterfeit PDE-5i, and summarizes both the scope and dangers of the illicit PDE-5i market.