Home | News | World News | Herbal supplements 'taken by Lamar Odom' have been linked to death

Herbal supplements 'taken by Lamar Odom' have been linked to death

  • Basketball star fighting for his life after 'taking ten tablets of herbal Viagra'
  • FDA has found 300 herbal products containing hidden prescription drugs like Viagra and Cialis
  • It warns these could be dangerous for people with high blood pressure
  • Around 90 per cent of counterfeit drugs are thought to be made in China

By Simon Tomlinson for MailOnline

Published: 07:40 EST, 14 October 2015 | Updated: 09:13 EST, 14 October 2015

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The potentially deadly effects of herbal Viagra like that apparently taken by basketball star Lamar Odom before he suffered heart failure have concerned health regulators for years.

The former LA Lakers player, 35, is fighting for his life after reportedly taking up to ten tablets of the performance-enhancing supplement.

While it is not yet clear what caused Odom's cardiac arrest, his condition has once again thrown the spotlight on the shady world of erectile dysfunction products that have long been linked to reports of stroke, kidney failure, liver injury and even death.

In its latest warning just two weeks ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it had found 300 herbal products that contained hidden ingredients including prescription drugs like Viagra and Cialis. 

Fake Viagra African Superman
Fake Viagra Stiff Nights

Counterfeit: The dangerous effects of herbal Viagra like that apparently taken by basketball star Lamar Odom before he suffered heart failure have alarmed health regulators for years. Products highlighted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration include African Superman (left) and Stiff Nights (right)

One product contained 31 times the prescription dose of tadalafil, the active ingredient in Cialis.

These drugs work by encouraging blood flow to the sexual organs, which, the FDA warns, could be deadly for some, particularly those who take medication for high blood pressure and diabetes.  

M. Daniel Dos Santos, of the FDA's Division of Dietary Supplement Programs, said in this month's report: 'A doctor needs to evaluate your total medical condition to know whether a particular medication is safe for you to use.

'If consumers are taking products that have undeclared drug ingredients, this leaves patients vulnerable to potentially serious drug interactions.' 

Products highlighted by the FDA include African Superman, King of Romance and Stiff Nights. It did not say these products had caused serious ill health or death.

But it warned that its undeclared ingredients 'may interact with nitrates found in some prescription drugs such as nitroglycerin and may lower blood pressure to dangerous levels.' 

Around 90 per cent of counterfeit medications come from China, according to LA Sheriff's investigators who recently found gypsum drywall powder and flour in drug seizures.

The pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which manufactures Viagra, also warns on its website of the dangers of buying counterfeit medications. 

Suffered heart failure: Odom (pictured with his estranged wife Khloe Kardashian in May 2012) is fighting for his life after reportedly taking up to ten tablets of an unknown form of herbal Viagra

Suffered heart failure: Odom (pictured with his estranged wife Khloe Kardashian in May 2012) is fighting for his life after reportedly taking up to ten tablets of an unknown form of herbal Viagra

It says fake Viagra has been found to contain blue printer ink, amphetamines or speed, and a powerful antibiotic that can cause an allergic reaction, diarrhea or vomiting. 

Even those most cautious consumer can be duped because the products are often labelled as 'all-natural' or 'herbal' alternatives to FDA-approved prescription drugs, the report added.

Gary Coody, the FDA's national health fraud co-ordinator, said: 'We're finding an alarming number of these products sold online and in retail stores. 

'They're often sold in single-serving sizes in gas stations or vending machines. 

'We've seen pills, coffees, chewing gum and dissolvable oral strips that contain hidden drug ingredients or untested chemicals.

The pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which manufactures Viagra, also warns on its website of the dangers of buying counterfeit medications

The pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which manufactures Viagra, also warns on its website of the dangers of buying counterfeit medications

'Consumers have no way of knowing which drugs or ingredients are actually in the product just by reading the ingredients on the label.'

From 2007 to 2010, the FDA also pressured companies to recall nearly 200 inappropriately formulated products which were linked to reports of stroke, kidney failure, liver injury and death. 

In 2008, four men died and seven others suffered severe brain damage after taking counterfeit Viagra in Singapore.

In 2011, the FDA warned of the dangers of a herbal product called ExtenZe, which resembled the real ExtenZe pills in every way expect for the added prescription-only chemicals tadalafil and sildenafil.

Both these active ingredients are in Cialis and Viagra and both drugs require a doctor's prescription.

It was the latest in a string of cases where real drugs for erectile dysfunction and other conditions appeared in herbal supplements that were marketed to treat those conditions.

In February of that year, Biotab voluntarily recalled two lots of counterfeit ExtenZe that contained tadalafil, sildenafil and sibutramine, a weight-loss pill that is not approved for sale in the U.S.

At the time, Biotab said that other counterfeit products might still be on store shelves.

Ilisa Bernstein, deputy director of the Office of Compliance in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research said at the time: 'This incident is an example of a growing trend of products marketed as dietary supplements or conventional foods with hidden drugs and chemicals.

'These types of products are typically promoted for sexual enhancement, weight loss, and body building, and are often represented as being "all natural."

'Consumers should exercise caution before purchasing products promoted for these uses.'

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