The Drug Dealers Who Push Viagra to Men Too Embarrassed to Get a Prescription

Even though Viagra is now available over-the-counter in the U.K., it’s still thriving on the black market

In a car park outside of a suburban East London supermarket, Dan is counting out small blue pills and placing them into see-through bags. His car, a Black Nissan Note with slightly worn tires that’s covered in scratches, has the pungent smell of weed, while the backseat is covered in more baggies. Dan, as you’ve probably guessed, is a drug dealer, and like most dealers in East London, he sells everything from weed to coke to MDMA. And while he won’t disclose exactly how much money he earns from selling drugs, he insists that it’s “more than you’d get working a city job, mainly because my clients are city boys that pay [a lot] to get messed up.”

In recent months, though, Dan has found a new revenue stream. Not in selling illegal drugs, but delivering ones that could be bought just as easily over-the-counter at any pharmacy in the U.K. Namely, he’s pushing Viagra.

Last November, the British government made Viagra available for purchase without a prescription or doctor’s note for the first time. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency had been worried that the drug, used to treat erectile dysfunction and pulmonary arterial hypertension, wasn’t being distributed to enough men. They estimated that one in five British men were suffering from some kind of erectile dysfunction but were too embarrassed to seek medical help for it.

At the same time, the British government feared that men were buying either poor quality or fake Viagra pills online, a black market estimated to have been worth more than 50 million pounds. When mixed with alcohol or other drugs, this bootleg Viagra poses severe health risks. So much so that last year, the National Health Service reported that there’d been a 51-percent increase in the number of men turning up to ERs because they either had severe pains in their penis, or were suffering from persistent erections.

But despite Viagra, known as “Viagra Connect,” being readily available over-the-counter for just under 20 pounds, guys like Dan have found themselves making a killing out of British men’s reluctance to buy the pills via Viagra Connect. Dan says he does about four or five deliveries of Viagra Connect a week, buying the pills from a chemist and then making a profit on what he calls a “delivery fee,” with a markup of more than 25 percent. In technical terms, what he’s doing is illegal, as one is required to have a license to sell or dispense drugs — even if you’re buying said drugs legally from a pharmacy.

More often than not, after purchasing and bagging up the pills, he meets the men secretly outside their offices or in parking lots like the one we’re currently at. “The guys are usually in their late 30s, 40s — you know, dads and all that,” he says. “Sometimes you get people in their 20s, like the ones who are really [embarrassed] to go buy them, or if someone they know finds out that they need them.”

We’re currently waiting for one of Dan’s regulars, a financial consultant, probably in his mid-30s by Dan’s estimation, who contacted him through friends who buy weed. “He contacted me one day and asked if I stocked Viagra. I didn’t — I didn’t even know it was legal at the time!” When Dan found out how easy it was to get ahold of some, he couldn’t believe it. “It was easy money,” he says. “I’d have been stupid not to do it.”

Dan isn’t the only dealer who’s making a decent living by selling Viagra in the U.K. either. He says that there are a lot of dealers who are doing the same thing, sometimes making more than 10 deliveries a week. Most of them, he claims, advertise on WhatsApp, where there’s a greater sense of privacy — both for the dealer to avoid the authorities and for customers who don’t want to be seen as part of a Facebook thread asking to buy Viagra. More dealers are choosing to advertise on Instagram, too, and are much more open about what they’re selling, advertising with names like “ViagraUKDelivery,” “ViagraUK” and “Viagra London.”

Through Dan, I speak to Aaron, the guy behind ViagraUKDelivery on Instagram. Also based in London, he does several deliveries of Viagra a week to guys “anywhere between their 20s to 60s” and makes money by charging a 30-percent delivery fee. Aaron doesn’t ask his clients why they’d rather buy Viagra from him when they could get it for cheaper from a pharmacist, but his guess is that “there’s still taboos around guys talking about their dicks, especially if they aren’t working.”

Aaron had initially started offering deliveries through WhatsApp after he was asked by a friend whether she could get some Viagra for her boyfriend, who was refusing to see a doctor or acknowledge anything was wrong. “Most of it initially started with girls calling me and asking for the pills because their boyfriends refused to do it,” he says. “I set up an account specifically for deliveries so it was easier to find — like someone searching for Viagra when they know they’re going out, or they know they’re getting laid. It also allows me to make money as soon as Boots [a U.K. pharmacy chain] closes down for the night.”

Beyond drug dealers like Aaron and Dan, other more legitimate business ventures are attempting to provide good, clean Viagra to men while minimizing the potential embarrassment that comes with going to a pharmacist, too. Earlier this month, for example, Well Pharmacy launched “Eddie,” the U.K.’s first Viagra subscription service, with the aim of letting men “order Viagra Connect directly to your door with no prescription fees or postage charges to pay when you sign up.”

According to Eddie’s mission statement, the Viagra arrives in a plain, unmarked box devoid of any advertising. “Feeling embarrassed and ashamed means that nearly half of men with [erectile dysfunction] suffer in silence and do not seek treatment from a doctor,” Jane Devenish, a pharmacist at Well, wrote in a press release provided to me. “Those who do seek help often wait over two years before reaching out to a healthcare professional. Even more concerning, millions of men are bypassing the healthcare system to access medicines from illegal sources.”

“We wanted to motivate men to open up about the issue by finding a celebrity who would inspire and galvanize them into being more proactive about getting treated,” the press release continued. “Unfortunately, we have yet to find someone bold enough to step forward.”

It’s hard then to see how services like Eddie can really compete against guys like Dan or Aaron when it comes to selling Viagra discreetly. “You’re always going to be judged by how you perform,” says Dan. “No one wants to think they’re weak or for other people to think they’re less of a man.” To that exact point, as Dan’s customer heads to the car, Dan tells me get out, and that our interview is over. “He might get freaked out if you’re here with me,” he says. “I want to be on good terms with him, he told me he’s got mates who might be interested in buying.”

Editor’s Note: Given the fact that dealing Viagra in such a manner is illegal in the U.K., all names have been changed.

Hussein Kesvani is MEL’s U.K./Europe editor. He last wrote about the ex-Muslim and ex-Jewish men on a mission to grow their foreskin back at any cost.

More Hussein: