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Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011

Bogus online male impotence drugs dangerous


Men who purchase treatments for impotence often do so online, given the nature of the problem. But an expert warns that consumers who buy from unauthorized distribution channels could end up with counterfeit products that damage their health.

A survey jointly conducted earlier this year by four companies that sell or manufacture erectile dysfunction (ED) treatments in Japan revealed that most people who buy treatments over the Internet, while suspecting that fake products are sold online, believe they have purchased the genuine article.

In June 2010, a man in his 40s in Nara Prefecture was taken to a hospital after experiencing spasms and diminished consciousness. Hours earlier, he had taken what turned out to be a counterfeit ED drug. He was diagnosed with a brain clot.

While the man later recovered, an official in the Nara pharmaceutical affairs division cautioned in April that "a causal relationship between the symptoms and the consumption (of the counterfeit drug) can't be ruled out."

Also in Nara Prefecture, several types of bogus ED treatments were found in January in the home of a man who died of interstitial lung disease, a form of lung tissue inflammation. An analysis of the drugs showed all of them contained ingredients that differed from those printed on the label.

"The quality of unauthorized products is totally unpredictable. Some do not have active elements, while others have them but not in sufficient quantities to produce the intended effects," said Haruaki Sasaki, an associate professor in urology at Showa University School of Medicine.

"Conversely, an overdose may produce strong side effects. Some of these products may contain foreign or impure elements if they are produced under unsanitary conditions," he said.

Sasaki said there have been cases abroad where people died after taking fake ED drugs or suffered impaired consciousness due to lowered blood sugar levels induced by ingredients in the counterfeit products.

Sometimes the drugs contain so many foreign elements that "we can't even pin down what they all are," he said. "If we don't know what they are, we can't provide the right treatment for the side effects and the symptoms could get worse."

A further reason for caution is that many people suffering from impotence are often concurrently suffering from diseases such as hypertension or diabetes.

Turning to online vendors, rather than seeing a doctor, could mean these consumers miss an opportunity to have the diseases diagnosed and treated.

Four ED treatment manufacturers and sellers in Japan posed as individual importers and bought around 180 products sold on the Internet between 2008 and 2009. They found 55.4 percent were fake. Counterfeits are often produced in China and other parts of Asia. The packaging is crafted so meticulously it is virtually impossible to distinguish from the real thing.

The four companies also conducted a survey in February and March on 564 men aged 30 or older who have purchased ED treatments from online stores or clinics where they regularly see their doctors.

Asked if they think online shops may be selling counterfeit products, 97.5 percent of those who buy from online outlets and 97.2 percent from clinics replied in the affirmative.

Among online buyers, 75.4 percent said they can't distinguish fake from real products, but 87.7 percent said they think what they bought was genuine.

"ED is a symptom that anyone can experience as part of aging and is not something to be ashamed about," Showa University's Sasaki said in urging men to consult their doctor.

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