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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, including 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 a number of varieties, including Gold Rhino 25000, Platinum Rhino 25000, Krazzy Rhino 25000, and other variations of the name. But 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 a number of herbs and supplements purported to improve erections by making them easier to get or longer lasting—something you may be interested in if you have erectile dysfunction (difficulty getting or maintaining an erection—aka ED).
These over-the-counter sexual enhancement products can be dangerous. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings about severe side effects. Some pills may contain ingredients not listed on the label—including substances that should only be dispensed by prescription because of the risk of side effects or dangerous drug interactions. They may also contain cheaper, untested, experimental versions of the active ingredients of some ED drugs (FDA, 2021).
Do Rhino pills work?
Rhino male enhancement pills may seem to “work” at first—after all, they contain ingredients that increase blood flow and swelling in the penis. The problem is that the substances (and amounts) they contain are either unstudied and unregulated or illegal to sell without a prescription. So you may get an erection, but that erection may come with unpredictable and dangerous side effects.
It’s illegal to sell prescription drugs over the counter because they can have dangerous—sometimes fatal—side effects if they aren’t appropriate for you to take, and it takes a licensed clinician to help you determine that.
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.”
Many Rhino products contain the active ingredients in Viagra (see Important Safety Information) and Cialis (see Important Safety Information), but these ingredients are undeclared and unlicensed. That means they could have 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, as tadalafil (and other ED medications) can interact with other medications in potentially deadly ways (FDA, 2019).
Rhino pills side effects
The side effects the FDA warned about are precisely what happened to one writer for Vice, who detailed a gory experience with Rhino pills. Hoping to improve his sexual performance, he bought a packet of “Rhinozen Black Fire” from a corner store and, after taking one dose, experienced heart palpitations, light-headedness, and chest pain.
A case report of a 25-year-old man who had taken Rhino 7 Platinum 3000 noted that he developed priapism—again, that’s an erection that would not go away—and 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).
In the multiple warnings by the FDA, some of the concerning side effects include dangerous drops in blood pressure, chest pain, prolonged erections, and potential drug interactions (FDA 2018; FDA, 2021).
You can’t buy Viagra (sildenafil) over-the-counter. All ED medications require a prescription, and as you’ve just read, there are good reasons. They are vasodilators, meaning they cause blood vessels in the body to dilate (open). That has the potential to cause side effects, and you shouldn’t take them 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 the FDA doesn’t regulate dietary supplements like prescription drugs.
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.
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- 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
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- U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. (2019). SUPER Platinum 30000 RHINO 7 contains hidden drug ingredient. Retrieved on 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 (FDA). Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. (2021). Tainted Sexual Enhancement Products. Retrieved on Nov 30, 2020 from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/medication-health-fraud/tainted-sexual-enhancement-products
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). (2018). FDA warns consumers to avoid Rhino male enhancement products found at retailers because of undeclared and potentially dangerous drug ingredients. Retrieved on 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
Dr. Chimene Richa is a board-certified Ophthalmologist and Senior Medical Writer/Reviewer at Ro.