FDA Video: Cautions about Sexual Enhancement Products

You can easily find them on the internet - products sold as "dietary supplements" to enhance sexual performance or treat erectile dysfunction. Many of these products are said to be "all natural" alternatives to prescription drugs. That might make you think they're harmless. But they may not be.

FDA has found that many of these supposedly "all natural" products actually contain ingredients that aren't on the label, and these ingredients could lead to serious and even fatal effects.

An FDA investigation of a number of these sexual enhancement supplements found that a third of them actually contained the same or similar ingredients to the class of prescription drugs that includes Viagra (sildenafil citrate), Cialis (tadalafil) and Levitra (vardenafil HCl.

Taking products that contain these kinds of ingredients can be particularly dangerous for people who are also taking prescription drugs that contain nitrates, such as nitroglycerin. That's because they can interact to cause dangerously low blood pressure.

People with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease often take nitrates. And since erectile dysfunction is common in men with these conditions, they may seek out these sorts of products.

To make matters worse, these so-called supplements are not likely to be made under the same quality controls as prescription drugs, so the identity or the amount of the Viagra-like ingredients could vary greatly.

Sometimes they have been found in enormous quantities --- much higher than approved dosages.

FDA has issued many alerts about these types of supplements over the past several years, but their number seems to be growing.

So the bottom line is this: Don't be misled by claims of "all natural" ingredients. Sexual enhancement products that claim to work as well as prescription products are likely to contain ingredients that could pose a serious health risk.