Experts warn over Nigerian 'viagra' drinks

March 24, 2014 by Aderogba Obisesan

Nike Ajibade and three of her colleagues sit on a Lagos pavement with small plastic bottles of liquids tucked inside weather-beaten plastic buckets.

The hidden bottles of so-called 'viagra' drinks sell for about $2 (1.4 euros) and are much sought-after for their supposed aphrodisiac qualities.

But medical professionals warn that rather than enhancing sexual prowess, regular users could be putting their long-term health at risk.

"Sales are high because of good patronage," Ajibade, 27, told AFP.

"Most of my customers are manual labourers who need to boost their energy in bed after a hard day's job under mostly inclement weather."

Hundreds of hawkers ply the bustling streets of Lagos and other Nigerian towns and cities selling such "" drinks, despite their unknown and untested effects on the male sex drive.

"They are creating health problems for themselves," warned the dean of the University of Lagos' faculty of pharmacy, Olukemi Odukoya.

"Unknown to them, some of these liquids have chemical substances which can cause liver or kidney problems, which are very expensive and difficult to manage."

A promise of sexual potency

Viagra, taken to treat erectile dysfunction, costs between $5 and $11 per little blue pill in Nigeria—way beyond the means of most people who live on just $2 a day.

As a result, that creates a ready market for cheaper, apparent alternatives.

Besides the locally produced $2 bottles, others are imported, including so-called Alomo bitters which come from Ghana.

The Ghanian liquid is a blend of rich medicinal herbs and roots that are believed to cure back pains and piles but are considered an aphrodisiac in Nigeria.

Bootleg versions of the drink—with 42 percent alcoholic content—are available in the local market for about $4 for a 750 millilitre bottle.

Such drinks—all with names promising a nirvana of sexual potency—flood the Nigerian market every day, mostly via the country's porous borders and seaports or past officials who turn a blind eye.

"I feel high and alright each time I have sex after consuming 'koboko' (horse whip) or 'kondo' (baton) drinks and my partner gives me a feeling of satisfaction," said one young motor mechanic after buying a bottle.

Similar "aphrodisiac" drinks are found in other West African countries such as Togo and Benin under names such "XXL", "Rox" and "Atomic", finding a ready market of young male consumers.

There is no official control and medical warnings against their consumption are regularly ignored.

Unknown health risks

A senior lecturer in clinical pharmacy studies at the University of Lagos, Aderemi Williams, said no known scientific studies have been carried out on the drinks.

But reports indicate they could be harmful.

Most have not been tested or approved by Nigeria's National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) regulator and accreditation can be faked by unscrupulous distributors.

"We therefore cannot vouch for their efficacy," said the agency's spokesman, Abubakar Jimoh.

"We are really concerned about the distribution of these illicit drugs and we are trying our best to put it in check."

Health professionals warned that possible side effects could include anaemia, increased risk of cancer and stroke, cirrhosis and reduced fertility, as well as enlargement of the prostate gland.

"If they were good, we would have them on our hospital shelves, dispensaries and pharmacies," said pharmacist Kunle Abifarin.

"And I am sure that most of them are not formally approved by the regulatory agencies."

Fertility problems

Nigeria has a wider problem with fake and adulterated drugs, with officials estimating that more than 70 percent of medication is bogus.

NAFDAC has arrested and prosecuted dozens of suspected dealers in counterfeit drugs and herbal products, destroyed seized goods and closed shops and warehouses where they were distributed, said Jimoh.

One University of Lagos clinical pharmacist said that instead of enhancing libido, regular drinkers of liquid aphrodisiacs may be risking their future fertility—and even life.

"They (consumers of the drinks) are only courting cheap death and creating employment for grave diggers," he added on condition of anonymity.

But Moruf Adeyemi, 29, a mechanic in the run-down Lagos district of Obalende, is unperturbed about the potential risks—and is convinced that they aid his performance in bed.

"Each of us has to die somehow. I don't believe the consumption of these sex-enhancing drinks has any side-effects," he said.

"My wife commends my performance in bed when I take them and that gives me joy."

Explore further: Nigerian court jails two over killer teething drug

Related Stories

Nigerian court jails two over killer teething drug

May 17, 2013
A Nigerian court on Friday sentenced two officials from a pharmaceutical company to seven years in prison over the sale of an adulterated teething drug which killed 84 babies in 2008.

Energy drinks linked to teen health risks

March 6, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—The uplifting effects of energy drinks are well advertised, but a new report finds consumption among teenagers may be linked with poor mental health and substance use.

Teens who consume energy drinks more likely to use alcohol and drugs

February 4, 2014
Nearly one-third of US adolescents consume high-caffeine energy drinks or "shots," and these teens report higher rates of alcohol, cigarette, or drug use, reports a study in the January/February Journal of Addiction Medicine, ...

French lawmakers approve tax on energy drinks

October 24, 2013
French lawmakers on Thursday approved a tax on energy drinks such as Red Bull over health concerns, amid growing claims that high-caffeine products are hazardous to young people.

Counterfeit medicine trade targets Africa's poor

August 22, 2013
From Cameroon to Ivory Coast, Kenya to the DR Congo, traders in counterfeit drugs do a thriving business with the utmost cynicism and sometimes at the cost of human lives.

Recommended for you

Newly deciphered vitamin D regulatory pathway opens doors to clinical research

August 21, 2017
Biochemists at the University of Wisconsin–Madison have deciphered the molecular mechanisms that underpin how the synthesis of the active form of vitamin D is regulated in the kidney, summing up decades of research in this ...

Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

August 18, 2017
Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early.

Doctors exploring how to prescribe income security

August 18, 2017
Physicians at St. Michael's Hospital are studying how full-time income support workers hired by health-care clinics can help vulnerable patients or those living in poverty improve their finances and their health.

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

August 17, 2017
Vaping - or the use of e-cigarettes - is widely accepted as a safer option for people who are already smoking.

Federal snack program does not yield expected impacts, researchers find

August 17, 2017
A well-intentioned government regulation designed to offer healthier options in school vending machines has failed to instill better snacking habits in a sample of schools in Appalachian Virginia, according to a study by ...

In a nutshell: Walnuts activate brain region involved in appetite control

August 17, 2017
Packed with nutrients linked to better health, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting feelings of fullness. Now, in a new brain imaging study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.