ATLANTA — A federal lawsuit accuses a dozen Georgia convenience store operators of peddling dangerous sex pills. Channel 2 Action News went undercover to reveal how easy they are to buy.
The pills in question are marketed as herbal supplements to boost male sex performance, but lab tests showed they contain varying amounts of active ingredients found in prescription medications Viagra and Cialis.
Men who take them without talking to a doctor are at risk for serious complications.
“Atlanta's actually one of the biggest markets for this,” attorney Robert Tauler said.
Tauler represents a company that sells legitimate natural male enhancement supplements. He has filed lawsuits against convenient stores for selling the pills in several U.S. cities, including Atlanta.
"How dangerous is this stuff?" asked Channel 2 consumer investigator Jim Strickland.
“We found that it’s pretty much like playing Russian roulette,” Tauler said.
The Food and Drug Administration issued warnings for nearly 200 varieties of pills because they were laced with pharmaceuticals.
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The FDA said it has received reports of users of some of these pills experiencing chest pain, severe headaches and prolonged erections that resulted in hospitalization and surgery because of plunging blood pressure.
“We’ve had victims contact our office that have suffered penile injuries, penile replacement surgeries,” Tauler said.
The FDA issued warnings for a variety of pill brands, including Black Stallion, Libigrow and Rhino. The FDA has warned consumers about 25 variations of pills using the Rhino brand with hidden drugs for more than a decade.
When Channel 2 producers went undercover in metro area gas stations, the pills were easy to spot.
Pills with FDA warnings were sold to producers at eight out of 10 stores visited.
Clerks touted the pills' effectiveness.
When Strickland questioned a Chevron in Cobb County selling pills with FDA warnings, the manager blamed a supplier for not disclosing those warnings.
The manager immediately pulled the pills from store shelves.
Strickland traveled to California to speak with former Rhino user, 62-year-old Casey Charles. He spoke of a Rhino brand pill’s effectiveness and dangers.
Charles believes his long-term use of the “Rhino 7” brand may leave him injured for life.
“It's quick and it's easy and it fills the bill. What I didn't know is that it's dangerous,” Charles told Strickland.
Charles said he used Rhino 7 for four years. When he stopped, he said his body reacted within weeks from enhancement to deformity.
“[My penis] turns almost a 90-degree angle to the left,” Charles said. “You can't even have sex with it.”
There is no absolute evidence Rhino 7 is to blame but his suspicion is unwavering. Charles said his only lifestyle change was stopping the pill.
Tauler told Strickland most men who claim they are victims do not want to cooperate with any investigation of the pills.
“There is a level of embarrassment that comes with any injury surrounding these types of products by their very nature,” Tauler said.
Tauler explained that his client is suing stores because distributors up the supply chain are too hard to track down.
A California man, Nam Hyun Lee, will be in federal court next week facing charges of conspiracy and smuggling misbranded drugs.
He’s accused of selling male enhancement supplements laced with the active ingredients in Viagra and Cialis under many brands, including Rhino.
Charles said more should have been done to warn men like him.
“That really twists me that those retail outlets could be used to sell me something that is illegal,” Charles said.
Cox Media Group