Buyer Beware: What You Need to Know About Counterfeit ED Medication

Over-the-counter options may seem enticing, but a prescription to treat your ED is safer and more effective.

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Lauren Tanabe,   

Mar 19, 2020 • 2 min read

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If you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction (ED), it’s tempting to skip a trip to the doctor and take matters into your own hands, buying ED drugs online without a prescription or trying an over-the-counter (OTC) route first. But these touted men’s health supplements may not be effective or even safe for you. 

That’s because ED medications are some of the most counterfeited drugs in the world, and the market is steadily growing as the population ages. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has publicly warned consumers about certain ED medications being advertised on the radio nationwide, which were being called, “a healthy man’s alternative to the little blue pill” or “the power pill.” Here’s what you need to know about these OTC options for erectile dysfunction and why it’s important to consult your doctor for a prescription, rather than shop around on your own.

OTC Pills Aren’t Regulated

“The problem with OTC ED medications is that there is no government or administrative oversight,” says  James Kashanian, MD, a urologist and assistant professor at Weill Cornell in New York City. “Because of this, in order to sell these preparations, many companies will put low doses of FDA-approved pharmaceutical medications into the formulations to make them effective.” Studies have shown that many counterfeit medications actually do contain some of the active ingredients found in prescription medications like Viagra and Cialis, but often at inaccurate amounts that may pose a health risk.

This was the case with the radio advertised “power pill,” back in 2018. The FDA confirmed this OTC drug contained a high dosage of sildenafil (Viagra). “This can be dangerous because these medications can have serious interactions with other drugs men might be taking,” says Dr. Kashanian. Patients such as the elderly or those with impaired liver and kidney function are especially susceptible to adverse drug interactions. People who have diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease may take drugs that contain nitrates, such as nitroglycerin. At the doses found in these counterfeit medications, sildenafil can interact with other drugs and cause blood pressure to reach dangerously low levels, in addition to causing facial flushing, congestion, or headaches.

How to Safely Purchase ED Pills Online

Several years ago Pfizer (the makers of Viagra) purchased and analyzed ED drugs from e-commerce sites and found that nearly 80% of surveyed sites sold fake versions of these drugs. Chemical analysis showed many pills contained varying amounts of the active ingredient, in addition to amphetamines, blue printer ink, antibiotics, and binding agents such as drywall. Aside from the uncertainty of what’s in OTC ED drugs, it’s important to remember that ED can be a symptom of cardiovascular disease, which requires treatment (though your doctor may still prescribe medication to help reverse ED). Once you do get a prescription from your doctor, make sure you are using a reputable pharmacy with a U.S. address and a pharmacy-verified website, like Blink Health, to fill it. If you think you might benefit from an ED med or a change in your current prescription, Blink Health also offers online doctor consults for $5. You can get your ED pill prescribed or refilled from the privacy and comfort of home.

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This article is not medical advice. It is intended for general informational purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your physician or dial 911.

Blink Health is not insurance. The discount prescription drug provider is Blink Health Administration, LLC, 1407 Broadway, Suite 2100, New York, NY 10018, (844) 366–2211,

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