Uganda Is Ground Zero For Dangerous Viagra-Laced Energy Drinks

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
energy drinks
An industry of energy drinks laced with sildenafil citrate — the chemical composition of Viagra — is on the rise in East and Southern Africa. Image: Tambako The Jaguar/Flickr

Energy drinks laced with Viagra have flooded the Ugandan market and other African countries including Malawi and Zambia have banned such beverages.

The supply of drinks laced with sildenafil citrate — the active ingredient in Viagra — is on the rise in East and Southern Africa. Uganda is doing little to stop a growing market for the drinks, according to Ozy.

Energy drinks account for 7 percent of the Ugandan bottled drinks market, up from 3 percent in 2018, according to Ken Katula, the Trade Ministry supervisor in Kampala.

Viagra is a prescription medication used to treat erectile dysfunction and is usually only available after assessment and recommendation from a doctor.

In some cases, Ugandan men buy the drinks as a sexual aid that is far cheaper than Viagra. A Viagra pill costs around $4, while the drink is sold for about $1.50, according to Ozy.

The dangers of drinking these Viagra-laced energy drinks include headaches, hot flushes and dizziness, blood pressure spikes, decrease or loss of vision, and seizures.

Combined with other medications such as nitrates, which are often given to treat chest pain, the active ingredient in Viagra and the energy drinks can cause a sudden decrease in blood pressure which can be life-threatening.

Sildenafil citrate, the chemical present in the energy drinks, is not disclosed on the product’s labeling, according to Independent Online.

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Authorities not doing enough

Increasing complaints from Ugandans after consuming the energy drinks led Ugandan authorities to test the beverages and take some action.

Authorities have shut down some factories where the drinks are being manufactured without certification, but new copycat versions of the drinks are introduced to the market faster than others can be removed.

In January, the Ugandan government banned Natural Power SX, a Zambian manufactured drink that showed traces of sildenafil citrate. The Zambian government banned the product two months later and such drinks have also been banned in Malawi, AllAfrica reports.

Those actions proved useless in stopping the entry of other similar energy drinks into the Ugandan market. Since January, new energy drinks in Uganda include Kokolioko, Kalaso, Embaluka, Omola, Vigour Men Plus, Mubalula, Kabaya, Kapiso, Mpiso and Energy Y.

Nothing has been done to remove these from the market.