Dicing with death over dodgy sex pills

PHOTO: Dicing with death over dodgy sex pills

Four men lie seriously ill in a hospital after possibly taking illegal sex drugs. However, some men are still open to buying them and business is brisk among peddlers.

Illegal sex drugs continue to be freely available in Geylang and Little India. This The New Paper reporter finds out more:

He may be in his 60s but age has obviously done nothing to diminish the taxi driver's sex drive.

There he was on Geylang Road last night, looking through some sexual enhancement products that a peddler was selling.

Curious, this reporter went up to the seller, who had parked himself outside the New Cathay Hotel and pretended to be interested in his wares.

I then turned to the taxi driver and asked for his recommendation.

His face lit up. "You try this," he said, pointing to a small bottle containing some almond-shaped red pills.

I inspected the product and noticed that there was nothing on the packaging which could tell me what the dubious-looking pills contained.

Instead, the bottle cap had some Chinese characters and underneath them were the words "jin mao sh wang".

I asked the 62-year-old man, who identified himself only as a taxi driver, if the pills were effective.

He grinned and said: "Different things work for different people. These red pills cost $5 for five tablets.

"You take them before you have sex. They are very good! One tablet can keep me going for two days. I take them with hot coffee one hour before having sex! Very effective!"

Intrigued, I asked him if he takes the pills every day.

He immediately turned serious and warned me that doing so could potentially damage my health.

He said: "You don't know what the pills contain. You don't know where they come from." After imparting this piece of advice, the man cheerfully waved goodbye and drove off in his taxi parked by the roadside.

Roaring business

Not alone

He is not alone in trying out these products.

Over a short spell last week, four men became seriously ill and had to be rushed to hospital for suspected consumption of illegal sex drugs.

The cases prompted the Health Sciences Authority to issue a statement warning of the dangers of such drugs.

But demand breeds supply, and The New Paper spotted at least five peddlers selling such illegal products outside the New Cathay Hotel last night.

If they were worried that they could be breaking the law, the peddlers didn't show it.

All laid out their wares openly on plastic sheets, about 5m away from the bustling Geylang Road.

Most of their products came in dodgy-looking packaging. Among them were boxes labelled "Viagra" and "Cialis", or tadalafil, which is used to treat erectile dysfunction in men.

I asked one of the peddlers how much they cost.

The man, who looked to be in his 30s, answered: "Viagra, one pill, $10. Cialis, four pieces, $10."

The drugs were not sold just in Geylang. They were also available at Desker Road, albeit more discreetly, The New Paper found.

Little India was a hive of activity last night and Mustafa Centre was bustling with shoppers. But it was quiet at a dark back lane off Desker Road, a stone's throw away.

There were several men and women milling around. I went up to a shop that sells adult novelty items and asked the storekeeper if he sold Cialis.

Recommended products

Recommended products

He nodded his head and led me inside.

The burly man then slipped out a laminated piece of paper of about A3 size.

On it were pictures of about 20 different sexual enhancement products and all of the products were for sale.

"You must try this one. This is very good. Just $50. All my customers told me that this is the best. You can definitely last longer when you take this one," he said, as he pointed to a product known as "Black King".

I insisted on Cialis and was told that a bottle containing 10 tablets could set me back $30. He told me that he also sold Viagra.

"One bottle has 30 pills - $100. But when you take Viagra, you cannot drink alcohol afterwards," he warned.

I beat a hasty retreat.

Just as I was getting out of the back lane, I heard a voice calling out to me: "Hello, mister, you want you buy medicine? Viagra, Cialis, all have."

I looked around and saw a portly elderly man addressing me.

I smiled back, shook my head and walked away.

Rising numbers of cases

4 warded for taking illegal sex drugs

The spell of cases was shocking.

Over four days last week, four men had to be rushed to hospital. Two were unconscious. The other two were confused and weak.

Although they are no longer in critical condition, one of the two men who were unconscious when warded “remains in a non-communicative state”, said a spokesman from the Health Sciences Authority (HSA).

The men were hospitalised for dangerously low blood sugar levels. The men are aged 30 to 78.

All four had one thing in common: They were suspected to have taken illegal sexual enhancement products. The men were warded between Jan 30 and Feb 2.

The HSA said in a statement yesterday: “Their urine and blood were tested and found to contain glibenclamide, an anti-diabetic medicine which was identified as the cause of their dangerously low blood sugar.

“Of the four patients, three are non-diabetics and one is a diabetic. The latter, however, was not prescribed glibenclamide for the treatment of diabetics.”

Glibenclamide is a drug used to lower the blood sugar levels of a diabetic person to normal levels and is a prescription-only medicine controlled by HSA under the Poisons Act.

What is this potentially fatal drug?

Dangerous drug

An HSA spokesman said: “Glibenclamide has frequently been found as an adulterant in illegal sexual enhancement health products.

“In the past, pills like Power 1 Walnut, Singapore Power 1, fake Cialis and Santi Bovine Penis Erecting pills were found to be similarly adulterated with glibenclamide.

“The quality and safety of such illegal health products cannot be vouched for as their manufacturing processes and conditions are unknown.”

The drugs are not new to Singapore. Power 1 Walnut claimed its first victim in April 2008.

A middle-aged Singaporean was admitted to hospital in a coma and died of pneumonia without regaining consciousness.

In 2008, at least 10 people died from taking black-market sex drugs. A total of 61 people fell ill from taking them and another 148 were suspected to have taken them. None of the 148 people admitted to it.

A pharmacist in a local hospital warned that a very low blood sugar level could cause seizures, organ failure or even send a person into coma.

Less extreme reactions include feeling faint, nausea and vomiting.

She said: “How your body reacts depends on factors like genetics and how much sugar there already is in the body.

“The higher the quantity taken, the more extreme the reactions.”

There is also the possibility of permanent side effects when one consumes the medicine without proper medical supervision.

She said: “There is a whole plethora of long-term damage. For example, one could suffer brain damage when having a seizure.”

On Saturday night, HSA and the police conducted a raid in the Geylang area. Some 10,000 units of illegal products were seized and six people were taken away for peddling them. Investigations are ongoing.

Over the last three years, more than 80 such raids were conducted and 1.4 million units of illegal products were seized.

More than 20 peddlers were prosecuted in the past few years.

Associate Professor Chan Cheng Leng, director of the vigilance division in HSA, cautioned: “Do not buy sexual enhancement health products from friends, relatives, hawkers or any dubious sources.

“See a doctor to get the proper medicines. The health hazards associated with illegal health products are very real.”

Anyone with information can contact HSA’s Enforcement Branch at 68663485 during office hours or e-mail hsa_is@hsa.gov.sg.

This article was first published in The New Paper.