How to avoid fake Viagra

Why you should avoid fake Viagra and what to look out for.

Viagra is big business. The market for drugs targeting erectile dysfunction reached $4.82 billion in 2017 and is expected to break the $7 billion threshold by 2024. But where there’s big money to be made, fraudsters are never far behind.

 

In 2015, the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) seized approximately £11 million (roughly $13.5 million) in fake Viagra. The popular erectile dysfunction pill accounted for 90% of fake drugs confiscated that year. By 2018, the MHRA was seizing counterfeit Viagra worth £13 million (around $16.2 million), seemingly losing the war against counterfeit drugs.  

 

Roughly 50% of men in their 50s have erectile dysfunction, but only a quarter of them receive treatment. The stigma surrounding the condition is driving men online to buy medications from unregulated Internet pharmacies. An estimated one in 10 people in the UK have previously purchased fake drugs on the Internet. Prices are often lower on the Internet with some shops offering fake Viagra for as little as $2.5 per pill. In comparison, the average cost of a branded Viagra pill is between $20-$30. One study found that 90% of Internet pharmacies offered fake generic Viagra. Similarly, an analysis of 22 websites noted that 77% of drugs sold as ‘generic Viagra’ turned out to be fake. In the U.S., it is estimated that 19 million adults are importing drugs they have purchased online. But experts argue that these statistics are likely too low and far more patients are exposing themselves to the dangers of counterfeit medication. 

 

The problem with fake Viagra

Counterfeit medicines are dangerous because buyers cannot be certain that any ingredients listed on the packaging are accurate. After all, these drugs aren’t regulated. Studies have shown that fake Viagra contains just 30%-50% of the active ingredient advertised on the label. In some cases, medicines could contain too much of an active drug causing serious side effects. Even worse, fake Viagra has been shown to contain bulking agents that could be toxic to humans such as gypsum (a component of plaster and drywall), amphetamine, paint, and even paracetamol. Because these ingredients aren’t listed on the packaging, people have no way of knowing whether they’re swallowing a compound that they may be allergic to or that may interact with other prescription drugs they are taking. Conditions in counterfeit laboratories are far from sterile so the products often become contaminated during the production process.

 

Natural alternatives in the form of supplements may be equally dangerous because these do not require Food and Drug Administration approval to be marketed and sold online. In 2008, for example, 150 patients in Singapore were admitted to hospital for hypoglycemia (very low blood sugar); seven fell into a coma and four died. They had one thing in common: all patients had taken an erectile dysfunction medication that contained glyburide, a medication used to treat diabetes.

 

The World Health Organization admits that the exact number of deaths linked to fake medication is unclear, but just to put things into perspective: an estimated 250,000 children die each year after taking fake malaria and pneumonia medications.

 

How do I know if it’s fake Viagra?

There are several things patients can do to limit their exposure to potential counterfeit medicines. Among the safest ways to pick up Viagra is the traditional route: visit a doctor, get a prescription and pick up the pills from a local pharmacy. For those who prefer not to leave the house or see a doctor face to face, licensed online pharmacies are a great alternative. Trustworthy online pharmacies will usually schedule a quick consultation that is reviewed by an actual doctor before they prescribe a medication.

 

It is best to avoid Internet shops or dubious online pharmacies that offer Viagra without any medical consultation. Erectile dysfunction drugs do cause side effects and a doctor or licensed pharmacist can help determine if they are suitable for you or if there may be any negative drug interactions. When it comes to your health, it’s best not to take any risks.

 

References

  1. Research, Z. (2019). Global Erectile Dysfunction Drugs Market Will Reach USD 7.10 Billion by 2024: Zion Market Research. GlobeNewswire News Room. Retrieved September 14, 2019, from <https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2018/10/05/1617442/0/en/Global-Erectile-Dysfunction-Drugs-Market-Will-Reach-USD-7-10-Billion-by-2024-Zion-Market-Research.html>
  2. Stubley, P. £13m worth of illegal erectile dysfunction drugs seized by police last year. (2019). The Independent. Retrieved September 14, 2019, from <https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/erectile-dysfunction-drug-illegal-uk-border-force-seize-fake-medicine-a8876581.html>
  3. Erectile Dysfunction (ED). (2019). UW Health. Retrieved September 14, 2019, from <https://www.uwhealth.org/urology/erectile-dysfunction-ed/20537>
  4. Viagra from Online Sources Mostly Fake. (2019). Medpagetoday.org. Retrieved September 14, 2019, from <https://www.medpagetoday.org/meetingcoverage/smsna/34493?vpass=1>
  5. Kaiser Health Tracking Poll. (2019). Files.kff.org. Retrieved September 14, 2019, from <http://files.kff.org/attachment/Kaiser-Health-Tracking-Poll-November-2016-Topline>
  6. Chiang, J., Yafi, F., Dorsey Jr, P., & Hellstrom, W. (2017). The dangers of sexual enhancement supplements and counterfeit drugs to “treat” erectile dysfunction. Translational Andrology and Urology, 6/1: 12-19. DOI: https://doi.org/10.21037/tau.2016.10.04
  7. Kao, S., Chan, C., Tan, B., Lim, C., Dalan, R., Gardner, D., & Pratt, E. et al. (2009). An Unusual Outbreak of Hypoglycemia. New England Journal of Medicine, 360/7: 734-736. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1056/nejmc0807678
  8. WHO | Growing threat from counterfeit medicines. (2019). Who.int. Retrieved September 14, 2019, from <https://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/88/4/10-020410/en/>
  9. Sample, I. (2019). Fake drugs kill more than 250,000 children a year, doctors warn. the Guardian. Retrieved September 14, 2019, from <https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/mar/11/fake-drugs-kill-more-than-250000-children-a-year-doctors-warn>

 

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