Screening sexual performance enhancing compounds and their analogues in counterfeit and illicit erectile dysfunction drugs by high-performance liquid chromatography and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry

J Forensic Leg Med. 2021 Aug:82:102224. doi: 10.1016/j.jflm.2021.102224. Epub 2021 Jul 28.


The growth of the counterfeit and illicit drugs market is attributable in part to phosphodiesterase type-5 inhibitor (PDE-5is) medications for erectile dysfunction (ED). PDE-5is and their analogues are being increasingly supplied as counterfeit and illicit drugs marketed to enhance sexual performance. Herein, we screened and confirmed a total of 181 such counterfeit and illicit drugs used to date to enhance sexual performance by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Out of 181 samples, PDE-5is and their analogues were detected in 156 samples, with 49.4% containing two or more components in a single sample. Sildenafil, tadalafil, and miscellaneous group were detected a rates of 64.1%, 34.4%, and 1.5% times and concentrations of 0.04-496 mg/g, 0.02-147 mg/g, and 0.54-16.4 mg/g, respectively with multiple compound groups also detected in single samples. Overdosing on these drugs can lead to adverse effects, the toxicities of combined administrations have not been researched, and administering multiple components in a single sample can be fatal. We recommend that counterfeit and illicit drugs for enhancing sexual performance be continuously controlled and supervised for the protection of public health, and more studies into toxicity and side effects are required.

Keywords: Counterfeit; HPLC; Illicit drug; LC–MS/MS; Phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor.

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Counterfeit Drugs / analysis*
  • Counterfeit Drugs / chemistry*
  • Erectile Dysfunction / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / analysis*
  • Illicit Drugs / chemistry*
  • Male
  • Phosphodiesterase 5 Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Counterfeit Drugs
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Phosphodiesterase 5 Inhibitors