Unauthorized products may pose serious health risks (August 12, 2019 to September 18, 2019)

Starting date: August 12, 2019 Posting date: September 18, 2019 Type of communication: Advisory Subcategory: Drugs, Natural health products Source of recall: Health Canada Issue: Unauthorized products, Important Safety Information Audience: General Public Identification number: RA-70685

Issue

Health Canada is advising Canadians about unauthorized health products that may pose serious health risks. The table below is updated when Health Canada finds unauthorized health products that are promoted for sexual enhancement, weight loss, as a workout aid, or as “poppers,” and that are labelled to contain or have been tested and found to contain dangerous ingredients. Links to previous tables with affected products are also available below.

Unauthorized health products have not been approved by Health Canada, which means that they have not been assessed for safety, effectiveness and quality. Unauthorized health products can pose many health dangers, including:

  • They may contain ingredients not listed on the label. This includes ingredients like prescription drugs, possibly at doses exceeding maximum recommended amounts. Prescription drugs should be taken only under the supervision of a health professional because they may cause serious side effects. Using a product that contains ingredients that the consumer is not aware of increases the chance of dangerous allergies and interactions with other medications and foods.
  • The label may indicate a dangerous ingredient or combination of ingredients. For example, it could list a drug that should be available only by prescription from a health care professional, or a combination of ingredients that Health Canada does not permit because of serious health risks.

Health Canada maintains this page so that Canadians can easily identify products they may have purchased and take appropriate action. Canadians are encouraged to check back regularly for updates. Advisories on safety issues involving other types of products are available in the recalls and safety alerts database.

What you should do

  • Stop using the products listed below. Consult your health care professional if you have used these products and have health concerns, and for advice on which health products are best for you and your family.
  • Read product labels to verify that health products have been authorized for sale by Health Canada. Authorized health products have an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN), Natural Product Number (NPN) or Homeopathic Drug Number (DIN-HM). You can also check if products have been authorized for sale by searching Health Canada’s Drug Product Database and Licensed Natural Health Product Database.
  • Report any health product adverse events or complaints to Health Canada.
  • See the additional information on buying health products safely in the helpful links below.

What companies should know:

  • Selling unauthorized health products in Canada is illegal.
  • When Health Canada identifies unauthorized products that may pose serious health risks, Health Canada takes appropriate action to prevent further distribution and informs Canadians. This includes working with the Canada Border Services Agency to help prevent further importation of unauthorized products.

Background

Flibanserin is a prescription drug used to treat hypoactive (low) sexual desire disorder (HSDD) in premenopausal women who have not had problems with low sexual desire in the past and should only be used under the supervision of a health care professional.Women should not take flibanserin if they have liver problems, are pregnant or breastfeeding, if they are taking certain other medicines, or if they have low blood pressure and drink alcohol. Common side effects include dizziness, sleepiness, nausea and tiredness. Serious side effects include fainting, low blood pressure, abnormally fast heartbeat, and mental health changes such as dissociation from reality, hallucination, intensely excited mood and racing thoughts. The risk of side effects increases with the amount taken (dose).

L-Dopa, also known as levodopa, is a prescription drug that is combined with other drug ingredients in anti-Parkinson’s medications. It should be used only under the supervision of a health care professional. Levodopa may interact with drugs prescribed for high blood pressure, and should not be used by women who are pregnant, who plan to become pregnant or who are breastfeeding. It should also not be taken by people with narrow angle glaucoma; untreated heart, liver, kidney, lung or hormonal diseases; a history of melanoma; or those who should not take drugs such as isoproterenol, amphetamines or epinephrine. Side effects requiring medical attention include: uncontrollable movements of the face, eyelids, mouth, tongue, neck, arms, hands, or legs; severe or persistent nausea or vomiting; an irregular heartbeat or fluttering in the chest; feeling lightheaded when standing quickly; or unusual changes in mood or behaviour.

“Poppers” is a slang term for products that contain alkyl nitrites. Despite being labelled for various uses such as leather cleaners, room odourizers or liquid incense, these products are inhaled or ingested by consumers for recreational purposes. Alkyl nitrites, such as amyl nitrite, butyl nitrite and isobutyl nitrite, are prescription drugs and should be used only under the supervision of a healthcare professional. Products containing alkyl nitrites may pose serious risks, including death, depending on the amount used, how frequently they are used and how long they are used for, as well as the person’s health and the other medications they may be taking. Since it is difficult to control how much is inhaled, people can accidentally overdose. Swallowing these products can lead to serious medical complications and may be fatal. People with certain medical conditions (including recent head trauma, bleeding into the head, glaucoma, or heart disease) and those taking certain medications (particularly drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction, and other drugs such as high blood pressure medications, certain migraine drugs, and high doses of aspirin) or illicit drugs are at particular risk.

Rauwolfia (also known as rauvolfia) is a prescription drug that can be used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension). People with heart conditions or psychiatric disorders should receive close medical supervision when using it as it can make certain conditions, such as depression, worse. Common side effects include tiredness, sleepiness, depression, nasal obstruction and breathlessness. Rauwolfia should not be used by children, or pregnant or nursing women.

Sildenafil is a prescription drug used to treat erectile dysfunction and should be used only under the supervision of a health care professional. It should not be used by individuals taking any kind of nitrate drug (e.g. nitroglycerine) as it can cause potentially life-threatening low blood pressure. Individuals with heart problems are at increased risk of cardiovascular side effects such as heart attack, stroke, chest pain, high blood pressure and abnormal heartbeat. Other possible side effects include headache, facial flushing, indigestion, dizziness, abnormal vision, and hearing loss. Desmethyl carbodenafil and dithiodesmethyl carbodenafil are unauthorized substances that are similar to sildenafil and may pose similar health risks.

Tadalafil is a prescription drug used to treat erectile dysfunction and should be used only under the supervision of a health care professional. It should not be used by individuals taking any kind of nitrate drug (e.g. nitroglycerine) as it can cause potentially life-threatening low blood pressure. Individuals with heart problems are at increased risk of cardiovascular side effects such as heart attack, stroke, chest pain, high blood pressure and abnormal heartbeat. Other possible side effects include headache, facial flushing, indigestion, dizziness, abnormal vision, and hearing loss. Aminotadalafil is an unauthorized substance that is similar to tadalafil and may pose similar health risks.

Yohimbine is a prescription drug and should be used only under the supervision of a health care professional. Yohimbine is derived from yohimbe, a bark extract. The use of yohimbine or yohimbe may result in serious adverse reactions particularly in people with high blood pressure, or heart, kidney or liver disease. Side effects include increased blood pressure and heart rate, anxiety, dizziness, tremors, headache, nausea and sleep disorders. It should not be used by children, or pregnant or nursing women.