Tainted Herbal Erection Supplement
Researchers at the Dutch Institute for Public Health and the Environment have found in a sex supplement that officially only contains natural ingredients an unknown designer drug that has the effect of Viagra and also works as a popper. The researchers write about it in the Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis. They have called the new substance nitroso-prodenafil.
The Dutch researchers found the new designer drug in a sex supplement, about which they are giving little away, except to say that the stuff is sold in packages of two capsules containing white powder. According to the label the supplement contains extracts of nine herbs and each capsule contains 560 mg powder. When the researcher weighed the capsules, however, they found that they only contained 386 mg per capsule.
In one capsule of the sex supplement the researchers found 108 mg of a hitherto unknown synthetic substance. Its chemical structure is shown below.
The new compound is a clever pro-drug: it decomposes in the body into two compounds that help erections. One of these is nitrogen monoxide, NO. The NO group is shown in grey in the molecule above. Chemists refer to this as an N-nitroso group.
So the pro-drug breaks up to form NO. In this respect the new compound resembles a popper. Poppers are recreational drugs that widen the blood vessels in the body, creating a feeling of well being and stimulating sexual arousal. Because poppers help the sphincter muscle to relax they make anal sex easier, for example. Above you can see the chemical structure of amyl nitrite, a popular popper.
The new compound is also a pro-drug for aildenafil, also known as methisosildenafil. It's a designer analogue of sildenafil, the active ingredient in good old Viagra. Aildenafil was discovered in 2007 by the FDA in yet another 'natural' herb-based sex supplement. The diagram above shows the chemical structure of aildenafil.
The researchers call the new compound nitroso-prodenafil. The 108 mg nitroso-prodenafil found in one capsule contains 84 mg aildenafil and 5.1 mg NO. That should be enough, you'd think. Viagra tabs usually contain 50-100 mg active ingredient. A 10 mg pill of a blood vessel widening medicine such as isosorbide-dinitrate provides a third of the amount of NO that a capsule of the 'natural' sex supplement provides.
The inventors of nitroso-prodenafil are not only clever, they also have no conscience. Their creation is probably not risk free. The combination of NO donors and sildenafil-like substances can lead to a dangerous drop in blood pressure, and some N-nitroso compounds are carcinogenic or can cause liver damage.
"This study shows that producers of these pharmaceuticals have ascended to a dangerous level of advancement in medicinal chemistry", the researchers conclude. "This new analogue has been developed regardless of the risks that come with concomitant use of PDE-5 inhibitors and NO donors or with the use of potentially toxic nitrosamines. Considering the use of illegal erectogenics as lifestyle drugs is widespread medical practitioners should be on the lookout for signs of intoxication."
J Pharm Biomed Anal. 2011 Mar 25;54(4):735-41.