Published: December 2011

Update: Erectile dysfunction medicines being imported into New Zealand

Prescriber Update 32(4): 35-36
December 2011

Healthcare professionals are advised that consumers continue to purchase and import erectile dysfunction products that have been contaminated with undisclosed prescription medicines or are counterfeit.

Products sold in New Zealand

In October this year the Director-General of Health advised consumers to immediately stop taking two products for erectile dysfunction as they were found to contain undeclared prescription medicines. These particular products were sold as herbal remedies and were marketed as “Get Stiff” and “Maxi Mize”.

The October alert is the latest of a series of alerts that have been required in New Zealand in recent years. In the last year over 60 remedies, mostly purporting to be herbal, have been seized at the border, tested by Medsafe, and found to contain undeclared prescription medicines. These medicines are predominantly sildenafil, vardenafil, and tadalafil, or a combination of these active ingredients.

The adulterated products recalled in New Zealand have been sold in adult sex shops, herbal stores, and pharmacies. Consumers or healthcare professionals who suspect that a product may contain a prescription medicine should contact Medsafe’s Compliance team for advice.

Imported packages

Since 2007 packages containing prescription medicines for the treatment of erectile dysfunction have been consistently the largest type of medicine referred to Medsafe by New Zealand Customs at the border.

Products generally contain either sildenafil, tadalafil, or vardenafil and generally fall within the following categories:

  1. They are genuine products imported such as Viagra (sildenafil), Cialis (tadalafil), or Levitra (vardenafil).
  2. They are generic brands that openly declare the ingredients.
  3. They are counterfeit Viagra, Cialis or Levitra.
  4. They are products purporting to be herbal remedies that are adulterated with hidden or undeclared medicines.

Counterfeit and adulterated products are destroyed immediately, while genuine medicines are able to be released to consumers once a valid prescription is provided to Medsafe. If a prescription is not produced, these packages are also destroyed. Further information about the importation of medicines is available on the Medsafe website at:

During 2010 a total of 11,930 parcels, originating from 114 different countries, were stopped by Customs and provided to Medsafe for inspection. Of these parcels Medsafe detained over 9000 prescription medicines, and gave the importer the opportunity to provide a prescription so the package could be released.

Of particular concern is that of 2623 medicines detained for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, only 894 were able to be released.  This indiciates that most products were purchased without a prescription or without the knowledge that they contained prescription medicines.

Health care professionals are advised to warn patients about the dangers of obtaining medicines over the internet, and to consider this possibility when patients present with unexplained symptoms that may actually be adverse effects.