The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have issued a warning to a China-based e-cigarette company for committing several violations.

According to the FDA warning letter the company called ‘HelloCig’ has used unapproved new drugs and potentially misled consumers into thinking that their products have been approved by the FDA.

The unapproved drug violations refer to prescription drugs being used in e-cigarette or vape liquid. One product is called ‘E-Cialis HelloCig E-Liquid’. Cialis is the brand name for a prescription drug used to treat erectile dysfunction. It contains the active ingredient tadalafil and is approved as a tablet treatment.

The FDA have tested the E-Cialis HelloCig product and found undeclared sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra) and tadalafil. Failing to declare the presence of these two substances, known as PDE5 inhibitors, is a serious safety concern. In the UK these medications are only given to patients following a consultation with a doctor or pharmacist (Viagra Connect does not require a doctor’s prescription and can be issued by a pharmacist following a consultation).

Another product called ‘E-Rimonabant HelloCig E-Liquid’ was also mentioned in the letter. Rimonabant was the name of a weight loss drug that was withdrawn from sale in 2008 due to a link to serious psychiatric side effects. The FDA found the HelloCig product to contain undeclared sildenafil.

When undeclared drugs are used in a product there’s no way of knowing what quantities of the substance are present. Active ingredients such as sildenafil and tadalafil could potentially interact with other medications and lead to serious harm. The FDA writes,they are not generally recognized among scientific experts as safe and effective for their labeled uses.’

In the UK and the US prescription drugs have to go through a rigorous process before they are granted a license.

The letter dated 11th October requests a written response within 15 days otherwise further action could be taken.

Why should I avoid prescription drugs in vape form?

This story has unfolded across the pond in the US; however, should you come across any similar products here in the UK you should avoid purchasing them.

Vaping or e-cigarettes are used by smokers to inhale nicotine whilst avoiding the harmful substances carbon monoxide and tar. They can be used to help a smoker quit smoking completely. However, this method has not been approved for use with any prescription drugs, therefore their safety and efficacy cannot be guaranteed.

Erectile dysfunction is a common problem for many men and it can be safely and effectively treated using a number of methods including tablets, injections, suppositories, pumps and creams. However, vaping is not a licensed delivery method for this (or any other) type of treatment. For safety reasons it is important to avoid all counterfeit ED products

If you require treatment for ED and you are not satisfied with your current medication you should speak to your doctor. They may be able to change your medication dosage or suggest an alternative treatment method.

How can I stay safe when buying medication online?

It is possible to purchase prescription medication safely online, including erectile dysfunction and weight loss products.

In the UK you should look for certain credentials. Just like regular pharmacies, online pharmacies have to be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council in order to be able to provide medicines to patients. The council acts as an independent regulatory body for the industry. A legitimate company will display their council registration number along with a logo.

Whilst it is not a mandatory requirement, online pharmacies can also register with the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Doing so demonstrates that the pharmacy is working to their standards of practice. Therefore you may feel more confident choosing an online doctor service that is CQC compliant.

As mentioned earlier, all erectile dysfunction medication requires a consultation with a doctor or pharmacist before a prescription can be issued. Viagra Connect is the only product where a consultation with a pharmacist can be used instead of a GMC-registered doctor.

Do not use websites that profess to being able to provide ED medications without the need for a consultation. You can read more about avoiding online pharmacy scams in a previous post.