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It’s a classic American story, a tale as old as time. On a mission or a whim, someone buys a shiny packet of “male enhancement pills” at a gas station counter, hoping to achieve the erections of an erotic superstar.
In some cases, these purchases end only with disappointment, perhaps a mild stomach ache. In others, the story can have a much worse ending. These products can have serious, even dangerous, side effects. One of them is priapism, an erection that won’t go away and can permanently damage the penis.
There are many male enhancement pills on the market. Some are known as “Rhino pills,” which are sold in several varieties, including Gold Rhino 25000, Platinum Rhino 25000, Krazzy Rhino 25000, and other variations of the name. Questionable branding isn’t the only issue with these alleged erection enhancers.
Here’s what you need to know about Rhino pills.
What are Rhino pills?
Rhino pills are a “male enhancement” or “sexual enhancement” product you’ll find at some convenience stores. Like most products of this type, they contain several herbs and supplements they claim improve erections by making them easier to get or longer-lasting.
But Rhino pills can be dangerous. The Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings which note that some people who’ve taken Rhino pills have experienced severe side effects. They also warn that the pills can contain ingredients not listed on the label. These include medications that should only be dispensed by prescription because of the risk of side effects or dangerous drug interactions (FDA, 2021).
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Rhino pills warnings
The Food & Drug Administration has issued warnings about Rhino pills in a section of its site called “Tainted Sexual Enhancement Products” (FDA, 2021).
In November 2018, the FDA advised consumers not to buy Rhino pills because of “undeclared and potentially dangerous drug ingredients” (FDA, 2018). The agency had received reports of people experiencing “chest pain, severe headaches, and prolonged erections after taking a Rhino product, leading to surgical intervention and hospitalization due to extreme drops in blood pressure.”
“These Rhino products contain undeclared ingredients that are the same as or structurally similar to active ingredients found in FDA-approved prescription drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction,” the agency said. Many Rhino products contain the active ingredients in Viagra and Cialis, but these ingredients are undeclared and unlicensed. That means they could come with some serious safety concerns (FDA, 2018).
In December 2019, the FDA issued another public notification urging people not to buy Rhino pills. The agency’s lab testing found that Super Platinum 30000 RHINO 7 contained tadalafil (brand name Cialis), a prescription drug for ED. Because it’s illegal to include prescription drugs in over-the-counter products, the medication wasn’t listed as an ingredient in the Rhino pills. That’s potentially very dangerous. Tadalafil (and other ED medications) can interact with nitrates found in some prescription drugs or the party drug known as “poppers,” causing a dangerous drop in blood pressure (FDA, 2019).
Side effects of Rhino pills
The side effects the FDA warned about are precisely what happened to one writer for Vice, who detailed a gory experience with Rhino pills. On a whim, he bought a packet of “Rhinozen Black Fire” from a corner store and, after taking one dose, he experienced heart palpitations, light-headedness, and chest pain.
In a 2018 article published in the Journal of Impotence Research, two California doctors reported on the case of a 25-year-old man who had taken Rhino 7 Platinum 3000. After developing priapism—again, that’s an erection that would not go away—he had to have a shunt placed to help the blood drain from his penis. Two weeks later, he had developed fibrosis (scarring) and could not get an erection (Mittakanti, 2018).
“Multiple investigations of Rhino products have demonstrated that sildenafil is a non-labeled ingredient,” the doctors wrote. “Given the lack of FDA oversight of many other supplements similar to this one, patients must be wary that the ingredients listed may not be comprehensive and that serious side effects can occur” (Mittakanti, 2018).
What is ED?
Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is the inability to get or keep an erection sufficient for satisfying sex. It is a prevalent condition, the most common sexual dysfunction there is. Experts believe more than 30 million Americans have experienced ED at some point (Nunes, 2012).
Common as it is, ED isn’t something to ignore. A serious health condition, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or mental health issues like depression can be responsible for erectile dysfunction (Nunes, 2012; ADA, n.d.; Rajkumar, 2015). That’s why it’s wise to consult a healthcare provider at the first sign of ED, even if you’re young and feel otherwise healthy.
Many treatment options are available for ED, including oral prescription medications, which are very effective for most men. These include sildenafil (brand name Viagra), tadalafil (brand name Cialis), and vardenafil (brand names Levitra and Staxyn).
Treatment options beyond oral medications include:
- Medications that are injected into the penis (such as alprostadil, BiMix, and TriMix)
- Surgery to correct conditions that can cause ED, such as Peyronie’s disease
- Devices that can help blood flow into and stay in the penis, such as cock rings and penis pumps
- Counseling for mental health issues that might contribute to ED
Read everything you need to know about options to treat ED here.
You can’t buy Viagra (sildenafil) over the counter. ED medications require a prescription, and as you’ve just read, there are good reasons why. They are vasodilators, meaning that they cause blood vessels in the body to dilate (open). That has the potential to cause side effects, and they shouldn’t be taken if you have certain medical conditions or are taking certain other medications.
To be safe, assume that any “male enhancement” or “sexual enhancement” product you see on store shelves, or anything marketed as “natural Viagra,” is ineffective at best and potentially dangerous at worst. That’s because dietary supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA like prescription drugs are.
For everything you need to know about penis enhancement pills, click here.
There’s a slight—slight—caveat to that. Some legitimate scientific studies have found that certain herbs and nutritional supplements may benefit your erection. These supplements, sold online and in vitamin and health-food stores, include L-arginine, DHEA, ginseng, L-carnitine, and yohimbe. Read more about these natural ways to improve your erection here.
- American Diabetes Association. Erectile Dysfunction. (n.d.). Retrieved Aug 23, 2020, from https://www.diabetes.org/resources/men/erectile-dysfunction
- Ferrini, M. G., Gonzalez-Cadavid, N. F., & Rajfer, J. (2017). Aging related erectile dysfunction-potential mechanism to halt or delay its onset. Translational andrology and urology, 6(1), 20–27. doi: 10.21037/tau.2016.11.18. Retrieved from https://tau.amegroups.com/article/view/13319/13808
- Mittakanti, H. R., & Elliott, C. S. (2018). Priapism caused by “Rhino 7 Platinum 3000” an over-the-counter male enhancement supplement. International journal of impotence research, 30(4), 190–191. doi: 10.1038/s41443-018-0033-7. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41443-018-0033-7
- Nunes, K. P., Labazi, H., & Webb, R. C. (2012). New insights into hypertension-associated erectile dysfunction. Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension, 21(2), 163–170. doi: 10.1097/mnh.0b013e32835021bd. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22240443/
- Rajkumar, R. P., & Kumaran, A. K. (2015). Depression and anxiety in men with sexual dysfunction: a retrospective study. Comprehensive psychiatry, 60, 114–118. doi: 10.1016/j.comppsych.2015.03.001. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0010440X15000346?via%3Dihub
- Stoddard, G. (2019). Review: I tried rhino sex enhancement pills. Vice. Retrieved on Nov 30, 2020 from https://www.vice.com/en/article/wjvqbx/i-bought-a-bunch-of-gas-station-boner-pills-and-only-made-it-through-one
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. (2019). SUPER Platinum 30000 RHINO 7 contains hidden drug ingredient. Retrieved Nov 30, 2020, from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/medication-health-fraud/public-notification-super-platinum-30000-rhino-7-contains-hidden-drug-ingredient
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. (2021). Tainted Sexual Enhancement Products. Retrieved Nov 30, 2020, from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/medication-health-fraud/tainted-sexual-enhancement-products
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2018). FDA warns consumers to avoid Rhino male enhancement products found at retailers because of undeclared and potentially dangerous drug ingredients. Retrieved Nov 30, 2020, from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-warns-consumers-avoid-rhino-male-enhancement-products-found-retailers-because-undeclared-and