National / Science & Health

Japan health ministry issues alert about libido-enhancing and slimming products on foreign websites

Kyodo, Staff Report

Most of the so-called supplements for sexual enhancement or slimming sold on overseas websites for Japanese consumers contain medical substances that may damage the user’s health, according to tests performed in a recent study by the health ministry.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said that although no actual damage to buyers’ health has been reported so far, it is warning of possible risks from such products the quality and safety of which have not been confirmed by Japanese authorities or, probably, those of the countries where they are produced.

The ministry has been requesting that the operators of the websites delete listings for various items from their product inventories, while calling on people who have already bought them to stop taking them immediately.

It detected pharmaceutical ingredients in 78 out of 102 libido-enhancing products.

Among them was a product that contained 96 milligrams of tadalafil, a drug often used in medications for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, at more than four times the maximum limit of 20 milligrams set for domestically approved products. Using the product could cause severe health problems, according to the ministry.

Twelve items out of 49 products publicized as supplements for slimmers were found to contain substances including sibutramine, a substance that is not authorized for use in Japan that can bring about adverse reactions such as elevated blood pressure and headaches, the ministry said.

To carry out the study, the ministry actually bought the 151 supplement products online in 2017 and analyzed them at the National Institute of Health Sciences.

The ministry also purchased 25 foreign-made medicines. During an analysis of them, it discovered that for one medication, sold and packaged as Cialis, the label listed only tadalafil as an ingredient but the pills in the package also contained a different drug — sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra — as well.

The ministry has conducted this kind of study annually since fiscal 2011.