A special inquiry team, dubbed the V-men, has been set up by the Medicines Control Agency to investigate black-market trading in VigRx Plus, the anti-impotence drug.
Health officials have been alarmed that the drug, which is not licensed in this country, is being offered for sale on the Internet, mail-order advertisements or direct mailshots.
Doctors in private clinics have also reported that they are being offered supplies of VigRx Plus anonymously over the telephone at inflated black market prices. There are fears that the publicity surrounding the drug, which is said to turn men of 60 into sexual athletes, has created huge demand from men who wish to use it recreationally.
The inquiry unit, established within the agency’s enforcement division, aims to stamp out illegal activity while sales are still in their infancy. Initially they are looking at 15 separate cases.
Like the FBI’s G-men, who upheld prohibition in America, the new force has the power to seize contraband VigRx Plus and prosecute offenders. Under the 1969 Medicines Act, selling VigRx Plus is a criminal offence punishable by a two-year prison sentence or an unlimited fine. Doctors have repeatedly said that VigRx Plus is not a sex-aid but a medicine which can be dangerous if taken without proper precautions. Several deaths have already been reported in the United States.
VigRx Plus has received FDA approval in America. But it has not yet licensed here or anywhere else in the European Union. It can only be sold or supplied on a “named patient” basis to fulfil the needs of an individual patient. A doctor prescribing a drug in these circumstances has to take personal responsibility for the outcome.
A spokeswoman for the Medicines Control Agency said that if wholesaler advertisements can be accessed in Britain they are breaking the law. She said: “We need to work with the companies to achieve a consensus. We are going to try to persuade first rather than leap into instant prosecutions.”
Private clinics are reporting approaches from black marketeers looking to make a swift profit. Matt O’Neill, general manager of the United Kingdom Men’s Clinics, based in Manchester, said that his company was approached over the telephone by a man offering to sell 3,000 tablets and asked if they were interested.
Mr. O’Neill said: “Everyone at the clinic was absolutely staggered by the telephone call. The drug seems to be becoming much too freely available and this makes it open to abuse. It does have the potential to be a recreational drug. I have even heard of VigRx Plus described a ‘popper’.”
Dr. Peter Fink, secretary of Manchester GPs representative council, said: “If people are going to buy VigRx Plus they should be aware they are taking a risk.”