5/2/07

Better sex? Herbal 'viagra' concoctions that spell big trouble

Better sex? Herbal 'viagra' concoctions that spell big trouble
Erectile dysfunction is a side effect of heart disease, and many men are taking "herbal" remedies, often laced with the active ingredients from medications prescribed for ED, in the belief that they are safe.

A Universiti Malaya Medical Centre study of 510 high-risk male heart patients last year, found that almost 95 per cent have ED, and more than half confessed to taking supplements without discussing it with their doctors.

According to health experts, it is likely that heart patients have died as a result. But no data are available because the men either collapsed and died at home, on the way to hospital or in hospital without telling anyone they had used supplements.

Interventional cardiologist Dr Ramesh Singh Veriah says adulterated herbal health supplements are being sold widely by village medicine men and through direct selling or friends, and have been on the market since at least the late 1990s.

"The innocuous-looking adulterated herbal health supplement, which comes in the form of white pills, capsules and drinks, even has Tongkat Ali mixed into it sometimes," he told the New Straits Times.

"These tablets are easily available in urban and rural areas and people are taking them without knowing the danger."

Some of his patients who had ED have told him they took these pills and felt good because they had revived their sex lives.

"I advised these patients against taking them because of their unknown contents, and that they could endanger their lives. But they would rather believe their medicine man in the kampung than me," he added.

Patients with heart disease are often prescribed medications that contain nitrates. The active ingredients in ED medication can interact with the nitrates and lower blood pressure to dangerous levels.

Those with diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol cannot take ED medication without the supervision of a doctor because of possible dangerous side effects like kidney failure.

One of the problems, says Dr Ramesh, is that most men are too embarrassed to discuss ED with their doctors, let alone their wives. They take these medications because they are cheap and readily available.

He said the use of such supplements was a growing concern in view of Malaysia’s ageing population. Based on the Massachusetts Male Ageing Study, it was estimated that in 1995 there were over 152 million men worldwide who experienced ED; the projections for 2025 show a prevalence of 322 million with ED, an increase of nearly 170 million men. The largest projected increases are in the developing world.

Men needed to be educated and made aware of the importance of only taking ED medication under supervision and prescribed by a qualified doctor, Dr Ramesh added. [NST]

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