FDA would like to stop finding Viagra in supplements sold on Amazon

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Written By Sedoso Feb

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If you were to search for a product called “Mens Maximum Energy Supplement” on Amazon, you’d be bombarded with everything from caffeine pills to amino acid supplements to the latest herb craze. But at some point last year, the FDA had purchased a specific product by that name from Amazon and sent it off to one of its labs to find out if the self-proclaimed “dietary supplement” contained anything that would actually boost energy.

In August, the FDA announced that the supposed supplement was actually a vehicle for a prescription drug that offered a very specific type of energy boost. It contained sildenafil, a drug much better known by its brand name: Viagra.

Four months later, the FDA is finally getting around to issuing a warning letter to Amazon, giving it 15 days to not only address Mens Maximum Energy Supplement and a handful of similar vehicles for prescription erection boosters, but also asking for an explanation of how the company is going to keep similarly mislabelled prescription drugs from being hawked on its site in the future.

Prescription energy

Mens Maximum Energy Supplement was just one of seven products that the FDA found for sale on Amazon that contained either Sildenafil or Tadalafil (marketed as Cialis). The product names ranged from the jokey (WeFun and Genergy) to the vaguely suggestive (Round 2) to the verbose (Big Guys Male Energy Supplement and X Max Triple Shot Energy Honey). All of them were marketed as supplements and contained no indication of their active ingredients.

And that, as the FDA explains to Amazon in detail, means selling those products violates a whole host of laws and regulations. They’re being marketed as dietary supplements, but don’t fit the operative legal definition of these supplements. They’re offering prescription drugs without providing directions for their intended and safe use. They contain no warnings about unsafe doses or how long they can be used safely.

The FDA points out that these rules exist for very good reasons. Both of the drugs found in these supplements inhibit an enzyme called a type-5 phosphodiesterase which, among other things, influences the circulatory system. One potential side effect is a dangerous drop in blood pressure. Both Sildenafil and Tadalafil can also have dangerous interactions with a specific class of drugs often taken by those with diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease.

Legal remedies

The FDA’s letter makes it clear that the highlighted supplements aren’t intended to be an exhaustive list of the products that Amazon offers in violation of federal law. And it is very explicit about the fact that it is Amazon’s responsibility (and not the FDA’s) to ensure compliance: “You are responsible for investigating and determining the causes of any violations and for preventing their recurrence or the occurrence of other violations.”

And Amazon clearly has its work cut out for it. None of the products cited by the FDA’s letter appear to still be for sale under the same name at Amazon—a company spokesperson told Ars that it pulled them in response to the original FDA findings. But searches for them at Amazon brought up a number of similar products, many of which included pills with the blue color that Viagra was marketed with.

So, the FDA wants to see a plan that describes how Amazon will not only deal with the products at issue in this letter, but prevent all similar violations in the future: “Include an explanation of each step being taken to prevent the recurrence of violations, including steps you will take to ensure that Amazon will no longer introduce or deliver for introduction into interstate commerce unapproved new drugs and/or misbranded products with undeclared drug ingredients, as well as copies of related documentation.”

Amazon is being given 15 days to respond to the warning letter. Failure to adequately address these violations, the FDA warns, will result in legal action.

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