Sexual impotency, also known erectile dysfunction in medical parlance, is a global problem affecting millions of the male folks across the world. However, Africans’ increasing reliance on assorted sex-enhancing drugs as a curative measure is becoming worrisome to medical experts.
The problem of impotency, which is understandably a very embarrassing condition to men, has been on the increase over the years. A research first published by the British Journal of Urology in 1995 revealed that there were over 152 million men suffering from erectile dysfunction and forecast that number would more than double by 2025, with the biggest increases likely in developing world.
The projection for Africa then was rather too depressing and frightening, indicating that men experiencing erectile dysfunction would rise by 169 percent in the period under review as against 39 percent increase in Europe. This was the gloomy and panicky situation in Africa before the globally acclaimed wonder pill, Viagra was introduced into the market by the American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer as the antidote to the problem.
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Unfortunately, the hype and celebration that greeted Viagra’s instant success was never really felt across the board in Africa as majority of prospective consumers could hardly afford it. According to Gatonye Gathura, chief science writer for the Nation Media Group in Kenya, within a day of Viagra’s launch, the product was available in all major East African cities, though admittedly at an exorbitant price of $10 a pill.
“This coupled with expensive doctors’ fees meant the drug remained out of the reach for all but the wealthy elite,” he said.
Subsequently, other cheaper brands such as Cialis and Levitra emerged, selling for half the price of Viagra ($5 a pop). Though still relatively on the high side, these alternatives swiftly triggered a mad rush for the products.
“I have been in the pharmaceutical industry for a long time and can’t remember another class of drugs that has gained such popularity and use in the recent past,” Dr. Lumbi M’nabea, a Nairobi-based pharmaceutical consultant, said.
The products’ popularity soon caught the eyes of drug counterfeiters who flooded the market with a plethora of fake and adulterated sex enhancers. Experts say male sexual enhancement pills are one of the most counterfeited drugs in the world. The counterfeit drug market is currently estimated at around $200 billion which means that between 8 and 15 percent of all medicines sold worldwide are fake. In some sub-Saharan African countries the proportion of fakes in the market is closer to 50 percent. In most cities in the East and Central African region, the trend assumed a alarming proportion.
“We saw lots of fake, counterfeits and even dangerous products masquerading as Cialis,” says Steve Mburu, a marketing manager for pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly.
Although most sex pills are ordered online by consumers, each year the South African law enforcement agency confiscates counterfeited sex pills and other related drugs worth millions of dollars. In Tanzania, according to Robert Manumba, the Director of Criminal Investigation, huge quantities of potentially dangerous fakes were impounded from the major cities including Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Mbeya and Mwanza.