The huge volume of sales of sexual stimulants among broad segments of Syrian society has been no secret, especially in recent years. One pharmacist confirmed to Al-Watan that before the crisis the demand for these stimulants was limited to a specific segment of society, mostly the elderly, but that recent years have seen an expansion in demand and consumption of these drugs among various segments. A number of pharmacists Al-Watan met with agreed that the biggest group of those demanding these products was people between the ages of 35 to 55.
Indicators which we reviewed showed that the sales rate of these stimulants was up to 5 percent of the total volume of medicines and stimulants sold in pharmacies, which is equal to contraceptions, also about 5 percent, meaning contraception and sexual stimulants are about 10 percent of all pharmaceutical sales.
Regarding the source of the popular products, several pharmacies said that some of the products were smuggled and some were locally produced, adding that most consumers preferred the local products because of the lower prices compared with the foreign, smuggled products. This is in addition to the higher effectiveness of local products, whose prices range between 200 to 700 Syrian pounds for a packet of four pills while the average price of smuggled products is between 500 to 2,000 Syrian pounds, with much higher prices for some types. Most foreign and smuggled products are sold in high-end areas because of the higher purchasing power, while most of the local products are distributed in lower- and middle-income areas.
Regarding the need for prescriptions to purchase these types of stimulants, pharmicists said that these products were common medications and that most pharmacies only asked about the health condition of the customer, especially with regards to heart disease, blood pressure, diabetes and other conditions. However, there have been many stories spread about cases of deaths which have occurred due to the use of these stimulants by individuals who have health conditions or who took excessive doses or improper types — all a result of random and medically unstudied usage, especially as some users of these products are ashamed, encouraging them to buy them through a go-between. These intermediaries may be younger in age and so the pharmacists cannot determine the buyer’s health condition or the reason for using this medication.
Head of the Syrian Medical Association Mahmoud al-Hassan said that sellers of these types of stimulants require buyers to provide a medical prescription from a doctor to know the health condition of the customer, evaluate it and how much should be consumed and used.
He said that the smuggled medicine and sexual stimulants being sold in pharmacies were in violation of the law. A customs official told Al-Watan that most of the smuggled stimulants originated from China and that this type of smuggling was encouraged by the small size of the products and their inflated prices, which has enabled any ordinary traveler to conceal a number of packets in their baggage.
In contrast to the high level of smuggling of these types of stimulants, confirmed by customs statistics, there is a trend of smuggling these stimulants out of Syria to some countries such as Egypt. What may be encouraging the market is the reduced price of these local stimulants compared with similar foreign products, alongside the ease of transportation. Many pharmacies and those concerned with the issue have pointed to the high amount of Syrian products of this type in Egyptian markets.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.