Healthy Living

What You Need To Know About The 'Herbal Viagra' Linked To Lamar Odom

They can contain active ingredients that are in real Viagra.

By Fiona Ortiz

CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. health authorities warned consumers recently about dangers of so-called herbal Viagra, non-prescription products sold to enhance sexual performance, reportedly used by former professional basketball player Lamar Odom, who is in critical condition in a Las Vegas hospital. The cause of Odom's collapse is not known.

The hospital has not commented on his condition, but entertainment website TMZ.com reported that Odom was on life support after collapsing in a legal brothel in Nevada on Tuesday.

Brothel owner Dennis Hof said in an email that staff there had reported Odom was taking herbal sexual enhancement capsules.

Lamar Odom, pictured June 2009. 
Lamar Odom, pictured June 2009. 

Gregory Bales, a professor of surgery and a urologist at the University of Chicago, said an unregulated sex performance supplement could cause a severe reaction.

“You can get into trouble because some of these remedies for sexual prowess are stimulants. For sure, these supplements, taken in sufficient quantity, can cause problems with your cardiovascular system,” Bales said.

Bales, who handles sexual dysfunction cases, said patients ask him about supplements every week.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found that some supplements sold as herbal alternatives to Viagra or Cialis contain the active ingredients of those drugs. Sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, can be dangerous for someone with an undiagnosed cardiac issue, Bales said.

Dozens of supplements are sold online and in retail establishments and touted as natural or herbal versions of prescription drugs for erectile dysfunction, the Food and Drug Administration said in a consumer update released on Oct. 1.

The update warned that products falsely marketed as “dietary supplements” that promise to enhance sexual performance are “a risky proposition.”

“We’re finding an alarming number of these products sold online and in retail stores,” the agency’s national health fraud coordinator Gary Coody said in the report. He said they are often sold in single-serving sizes at gas stations or from vending machines.

“We’ve seen pills, coffees, chewing gum and dissolvable oral strips that contain hidden drug ingredients or untested chemicals,” Coody said.

The consumer warning said the risk is that the products often contain drug ingredients that could interact dangerously with heart disease medicines or other prescription drugs.

The 6-foot, 10-inch-tall (2-metre) athlete has long been reported to have had issues with cocaine abuse, although this has never been publicly confirmed. He has admitted only to using marijuana.

During the 2000-2001 season, Odom was suspended for violating the National Basketball Association’s antidrug policy. In 2013, he pleaded no contest in Los Angeles to a charge of driving under the influence and was ordered to undergo rehabilitation for three months for alcohol abuse.

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LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 22: (L-R) Luke Walton #4, Trevor Ariza #3, Andrew Bynum #17, Kobe Bryant #24, and Lamar Odom #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers share a laugh on the bench during their game against the Washington Wizards at Staples Center January 22, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2009 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
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LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 15: (L-R) Kobe Bryant #24 and Lamar Odom #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers share a laugh on the bench during the game against the Los Angeles Clippers on January 15, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 126-86. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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Kobe Bryant, left, and Lamar Odom of the Los Angeles Lakers share a laugh together in between being photographed by NBA photographer Noah Graham during Lakers Media Day held at their practice facility in El Segundo on Monday, October 2, 2006. (Photo by Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
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Kobe Bryant, left, and Lamar Odom of the Los Angeles Lakers share a laugh together in between being photographed for Lakers Media Day held at their practice facility in El Segundo on Monday, October 2, 2006. (Photo by Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
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EL SEGUNDO, CA - DECEMBER 5: (L-R) DJ Mbenga and Lamar Odom of the Los Angeles Lakers share a laugh during the Los Angeles Lakers annual Holiday Party for kids on December 5, 2009 at the Los Angeles Lakers facility in El Segundo, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2009 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
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LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 19: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers talks with teammate Lamar Odom #7 during the game against the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center on March 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
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LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 17: Lamar Odom #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers goes up for a shot between Tony Allen #42 and Rasheed Wallace #30 of the Boston Celtics in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 17, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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LOS ANGELES - JUNE 17: Kobe Bryant #24; Lamar Odom #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers rebound against Tony Allen #42 of the Boston Celtics during Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals on June 17, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2010 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
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LOS ANGELES - JUNE 17: Lamar Odom #7 and the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates after defeating the Boston Celtics 83-79 in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals on June 17, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2010 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
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LOS ANGELES - JUNE 17: Sasha Vujacic #18, Derek Fisher #2, Kobe Bryant #24, Lamar Odom #7, and Josh Powell #21 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates after defeating the Boston Celtics 83-79 in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals on June 17, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2010 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
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LOS ANGELES - JUNE 17: Lamar Odom #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers is doused in champagne following his team's victory over the Boston Celtics in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals on June 17, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2010 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
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LOS ANGELES - JUNE 17: Legend Magic Johnson and Lamar Odom #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrate after defeating the Boston Celtics 83-79 in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals on June 17, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2010 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
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LOS ANGELES - JUNE 17: Lamar Odom #7, Kobe Bryant #24, Sasha Vujacic #18 and Shannon Brown #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrate after defeating the Boston Celtics 83-79 in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals on June 17, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2010 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
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LOS ANGELES - JUNE 17: Lamar Odom #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers is brought to tears following his team's victory over the Boston Celtics in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals on June 17, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2010 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
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LOS ANGELES - JUNE 17: Lamar Odom #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers is brought to tears following his team's victory over the Boston Celtics in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals on June 17, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2010 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
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LOS ANGELES - JUNE 17: Kobe Bryant #24, Sasha Vujacic #18, Lamar Odom #7, and Shannon Brown #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrate following their victory over the Boston Celtics in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals on June 17, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2010 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)