In November 2008, illegal Chinese-made sex pills made headlines when ten men in Singapore died rather gruesome deaths after taking them. For the two years following, Shanghai authorities have struggled to reign in the counterfeit Viagra market but have been held back by a bureaucratic loophole: vendors claim that the drugs are herbal in nature and thus a health supplement and not a drug (and so out of the FDA’s reach.) Now, armed with new intellectual property rights legislation, a joint government force has begun a crackdown on these potentially fatal little blue pills.
These fake pills are potentially deadly, especially to elderly users, because they contain sometimes twice the amount of silenafil, Viagra’s core ingredient. Silenafil works by expanding blood vessels and can cause dizziness, irregular heartbeat and fainting when taken in high amounts.
Located on Fangbang Lu near Yuyuan Garden, the illegal sex drug market operates under the guise of porn DVD hawkers. They’ve been known to violently bully reluctant customers and to beat up local urban management officials who interfere.
The Fangbang Lu gangs get their pills from a wholesale market on Tianmu Lu near the Shanghai Railway Station. Some of the pills, while being toted as an “herbal supplement”, have actually been found in licensed retailers around Shanghai!
Why are Shanghai men buying fake sex pills in the first place? Because compared to the real Viagra, which costs 99RMB per pill in China, fake Viagra runs for as little as 2 yuan per pill (and less if you buy wholesale!)
Officials from the Food and Drug Administration, the Industry and Commerce Administration and the police have worked together to arrest 12 alleged gang members and confiscate 150 varieties of the sex drug. The pills are said to be made in Hebei factories, then shipped to Shanghai.
If successful, the crackdown could have far-reaching implications for drug safety both in China and internationally. Just two weeks ago, a fake drug racket in New Zealand was busted for dealing counterfeit sexual stimulants, heart medications, pain killers, all believed to have been made in China.