The Dangers of Over-the-Counter Male Enhancement
Published on Oct 09, 2012
You might have heard the story of Adrian Carter, a 29-year-old man from Texas who claims a sexual enhancement product caused his fractured penis.
If not, here’s a quick rundown (warning: it’s quite graphic). On the advice of a convenience store clerk, Carter purchased a product called Virilis Pro, manufactured by Haute Health.
According to its promotional website, Virilis Pro is a sexual enhancement product that “works to give you a harder erection for natural male enlargement and a more intense orgasm. It also helps lower your recovery time and increase sexual stamina for total sexual enhancement.”
The website also says, “Virilis Pro™ is an all-natural male enhancement. That means it's made with only natural ingredients to prevent harmful side effects. Always check with a healthcare professional before using any supplement.”
Carter then went to a hotel, where he had sex with his “paramour.” During intercourse, he had pain and heavy bleeding from his penis. The blood was said to “squirt” all over the sheets, walls, and mirror.
At the emergency room, Carter was diagnosed with penile fracture, blood in his urine, and injury to his urethra, the tube that allows urine and semen to exit the body. Doctors had to “deglove” (remove the outer skin from) Carter’s penis and repair the urethra. Carter was told he might have erectile and urination problems going forward.
Carter claims that Virilis Pro caused his penile fracture and has filed a lawsuit against Haute Health.
Is Virilis Pro to blame?
The answer remains to be seen. But the story reminds us of some important issues related to male sexual enhancement products.
Why do some men buy sexual enhancement products?
For many people, sex is not an easy discussion topic. Some men feel embarrassed talking about sexual problems, to their partner or to a doctor. Buying sexual enhancement products anonymously – from a convenience store clerk who doesn’t know them or online, from a site that promises discreet packaging – might make them feel less self-conscious.
Also, sexual enhancement products are easy to acquire. Men can buy them over-the-counter, so there is no medical exam to schedule and no prescription to fill. And since the products are easy to find, men can get them quickly.
What are the dangers?
Many sexual enhancement products are marketed as dietary supplements with buzzwords like “all-natural,” “herbal,” and “safer.” These words make the products sound harmless, but the words can be misleading.
Dietary supplements are not always regulated by agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are not subject to the same quality controls and often are not studied as comprehensively as approved products.
The ingredients in sexual enhancement products can be problematic as well. For example, some products for erectile dysfunction (ED – the inability to get or maintain an erection) use the same active ingredient that can be found in prescription ED drugs, like Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis. Or, the products may include an analogue – a chemical compound that is similar to the prescription ingredient, but not exactly. Supplements may contain more of the active ingredient than prescriptions do. Sometimes, supplement manufacturers do not list all the ingredients on the label.
The danger occurs when the supplement interacts with a man’s current medications. For instance, men who take nitrates for conditions like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol shouldn’t take prescription ED drugs. The interaction of nitrates and ED drugs can cause a critical drop in blood pressure.
An unsuspecting man on nitrates may think that the “all-natural” product that claims to be a “safer alternative” will not be a problem. Unfortunately, the product could contain the same active ingredient as the prescription ED drugs, putting him at serious risk. And that interacting ingredient may not even be on the label.
What can men do?
If a man is having sexual problems, or feels that his performance isn’t up to par, it’s important for him to see a doctor. Some sexual issues are signs of a serious medical condition. For example, erectile dysfunction can be a sign of diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
Doctors can suggest healthy ways to manage a sexual problem. Medication, or a change in medication, could make the situation improve dramatically. A healthy diet, consistent exercise program, and stress management may also help.
Men who have taken, or are considering taking, any kind of supplement should consult their doctor to make sure it’s safe.
Partners can also be involved. A man might feel that he can’t please his partner if he doesn’t take supplements. This partner can reassure him that their activities are fine. Or, the couple can discuss ways to improve their sexual relationship.
The FDA provides an updated list of “tainted” sexual enhancement products on its website. You can also sign up to receive e-mail alerts whenever this page is updated.
Health Canada also provides information about advisories and warnings.
What do you think?
Have you ever tried a sexual enhancement product? What happened? Do you think Adrian Carter will win the lawsuit? Tell us what you think in the comments.
James, Susan Donaldson
“Man Fractures Penis After Taking Sex Pill, Lawsuit Claims”
August 30, 2012
Courthouse News Service
“Not For the Faint of Heart”
(August 28, 2012)
“Advisories and Warnings”
Sexual Medicine Society of North America
“ED and Sexual Enhancement Products”
(February 9, 2011)
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
“Beware of Contaminated ‘All-natural’ Erectile Dysfunction Products”
(Video. Page last update: June 25, 2010)
“Tainted Sexual Enhancement Products”
(Page last updated: May 25, 2012)
“Frequently Asked Questions”
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