Increased Consumer Risks from Purchasing Erectile Dysfunction Medicine on the Gray Market Exposed in New Research – National Consumers League

November 14, 2018

Bayer and the National Consumers League release white paper that explores the risks consumers face when purchasing erectile dysfunction (ED) medicines from illegal online pharmacies and provides policy recommendations for increasing safe access to ED medicines.

Washington, DC–Bayer and the National Consumers League (NCL) today released a white paper, Increased Consumer Risk from Erectile Dysfunction Medication Advertised and Sold on the Gray Market, which exposes the dangers to consumers who purchase ED medication from illegal online pharmacies – also known as the gray market.

The white paper was commissioned by Bayer, and NCL, the nation’s pioneering consumer advocacy organization, served as a reviewer and research consultant. Findings from the white paper were presented today at the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) Global Foundation’s Spotlight on Illegal Online Drug Sales Research Symposium in Washington, D.C.

“Online pharmacies offer convenient access to prescription medicines, but without proper precautions and guardrails, convenience can come at the cost of safety and security,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg, who authored a foreword to the white paper and presented the findings at the ASOP Symposium. “When consumers cut corners by shopping at illegitimate online sources, they inadvertently place themselves at risk. We are committed to ensuring access to safe, effective medicines for all Americans and contributing to recommendations that place the gray market front-and-center in health policy decision making in order to reduce consumer reliance on these illicit online channels.”

“Certain medicines, particularly those used to treat ED, are commonly sought after through illegitimate internet pharmacies, despite known risks to consumers,” said Raymond F. Kerins Jr., Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Bayer in the U.S. “Consumer and patient safety, health and well-being are at the heart of our life science mission. It’s our hope that this research helps to create additional awareness and actionable steps to deter online purchasing in today’s digital age.”

Erectile dysfunction medications are among the most common medications offered by illegal online pharmacies. Many men with ED choose not to visit a doctor for consultation or to obtain prescriptions for these medications due to embarrassment over discussing the issue, because they lack sufficient insurance coverage or simply out of a preference for convenience. Increasingly, men are turning to online pharmacies, however, a 2018 review conducted by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy found 94.8 percent of online pharmacies do not comply with U.S. pharmacy laws and practice standards, placing consumer health and safety at risk. The drugs sold through these illegal channels may contain too much, too little or no active pharmaceutical ingredients. Likewise, these products may contain substitutes and altogether different pharmaceutical compounds or ingredients found to be ineffective, harmful or even deadly.

To address these serious risks to consumers, the white paper concludes that gray market deterrents should be an integral component of health policy in the digital age and offers steps for policymakers to take action. These policies include enhancing consumer awareness about the gray market and promoting health literacy; encouraging healthcare providers to talk about the risks of illegal online pharmacies with their patients; increasing access by making ED medicines available over-the-counter, which includes consumer education and information programs; and collaborative law enforcement actions to combat illegal sales on the gray market.

This white paper and the Ipsos Gray Market Survey were developed with funding provided by Bayer. Bayer, the National Consumers League and Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting contributed research and reviewed the content of this paper.

Please visit Bayer at and the NCL at to learn more about the research and access the white paper.


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

About Bayer
Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the Life Science fields of health care and agriculture. Its products and services are designed to benefit people and improve their quality of life. At the same time, the Group aims to create value through innovation, growth and high earning power. Bayer is committed to the principles of sustainable development and to its social and ethical responsibilities as a corporate citizen. In fiscal 2017, the Group employed around 99,800 people and had sales of EUR 35.0 billion. Capital expenditures amounted to EUR 2.4 billion, R&D expenses to EUR 4.5 billion. For more information, go to

Forward-Looking Statement
This news release may contain forward-looking statements based on current assumptions and forecasts made by Bayer Group or subgroup management. Various known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors could lead to material differences between the actual future results, financial situation, development or performance of the company and the estimates given here. These factors include those discussed in Bayer’s public reports which are available on the Bayer website at The company assumes no liability whatsoever to update these forward-looking statements or to conform them to future events or developments.


Carol McKay, National Consumers League, (412) 945-3242 


Jennifer Brendel, Bayer, (862) 246-5028