Those versed with the authentic erectile dysfunction pills, also known as Viagra, would know that they are small, film coated, blue and diamond-shaped.
However, while the fake erectile dysfunction pills, which are increasingly flooding the Gaborone market, have the semblance of the original product health authorities and local distributors are raising red flags over what they say are “crooked pharmaceutical dealers taking advantage of the growing demand for sexual enhancing drugs to cheat unsuspecting consumers.”
Reports are emerging that illegally imported sexual performance drugs which are mainly advertised on Facebook groups has caught the attention of health agencies who have been swift to warn people against buying the pills from unauthorised dealers. The counterfeit copies of the male impotence pills are believed to contain an assortment of potentially toxic chemicals with severe health risks.
On Facebook, most dealers are selling one pill for P20. Speaking to Arts & Society, a lady who sells the pills said the pills are in high demand and it is big business for them. “People are not allowed to buy Viagra pills over the counter in pharmacies, so we as dealers have become a lifeline to a lot of men,” says the dealer who only wanted to be identified as Amantle. When this publication pressed her to disclose the source of her contraband and if they are authentic, she refused to respond accusing us as being underground law enforcement operatives.
Kefilwe Mlatso, a Pharmacist and Health care policymaker based in Gaborone told Arts & Society that the health of men who purchase counterfeit sexual performance drugs is at high risk.
“Viagra tablets are used to treat men with erectile dysfunction (ED), and the unlicensed viagra-style tablets are being sold illegally in Gaborone markets where it is cheaper and easily accessible,” she says.
She says the crooked dealers are capitalising on men’s weakness which is that most men generally do not want to talk about erectile dysfunction, even with their doctors. “Men would rather keep sexual health problems to themselves because they feel it is embarrassing to disclose such problems, even to doctors. Most men prefer to buy the pills in secret. So the dealers are taking advantage of this weakness knowing fully well that men hardly visit the sexual health clinics to get help with erectile dysfunction,” she says.
Amongst other things, she said counterfeit male impotence pills pose health risks to the consumers. “It is reckless to buy unregistered medicines used to treat men with erectile dysfunction because the dealers do not have the consent of quality assurance agencies,” says Mlatso.
Meanwhile the Botswana Police Service (BPS) is urging the public not to buy drugs from unlicensed or unregulated vendors in Botswana. An officer who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity indicated that illegal dealers are quite good with branding because they make the tablets look authentic. “They often package their products with logos of real drug companies and most people assume it is the real product,” says the officer.
Viagra ranks among the top counterfeited medicines in the world. Although the counterfeit tablet is sometimes cheaper, it might contain elements that can be harmful, and in some cases worsen the erectile dysfunction that it is supposed to treat.
Health care policymaker, Kefilwe Mlatso also advises men that if they do not know where the drug came from, who supplies it and how it has been stored, then they should do the right thing and not buy it because the people supplying the product do not care about the consumers’ health, but profits.
Erectile dysfunction is usually caused by anxiety, tiredness, stress or alcohol. Lifestyle factors than can affect the condition include obesity, smoking, cycling too much, drinking too much, and stress.