GRAHAM — A Texas company with a string of lawsuits in federal courts is suing gas stations and convenience stores in and near Alamance County over selling "male enhancement" pills containing illegal pharmaceuticals.

Outlaw Laboratory makes a number of dietary supplements advertised to burn fat, build muscle, boost energy and improve men's sexual performance. The company sued last month in Alamance County Superior Court naming eight stores, including one on North Church Street, saying they are selling competing products with names like "Rhino" advertised as "all natural" and containing "no harmful synthetic chemicals," but that actually contain pharmaceutical compounds found in prescription erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra and Cialis.

"The proliferation of mislabeled male enhancement pills has grown in the shadows of intermittent enforcement of nutritional supplement laws," the suit reads.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning in November advising consumers to avoid some of these retail supplements because they contain illegal pharmaceuticals, and in June issued a general warning about retail "sexual enhancement" products -- often imported -- being tainted with approved pharmaceutical compounds or similar compounds that haven't been tested for safety. Those drugs can have serious side effects, like chest pain, severe headaches, dangerous interactions with other drugs, and even death.

In 2017, Outlaw Laboratory started sending letters to thousands of stores across the country, warning them they were liable for as much as $100,000 for selling products with undisclosed pharmaceutical ingredients, and offering settlements of about $10,000 for diverting the company's profits, according to courthousenews.com. Many of those businesses sued, calling the letters "shakedown letters," and a federal judge rejected Outlaw Laboratory's motion to dismiss those claims. The National Coalition of Association of 7-Eleven Franchisees issued guidance in June 2018 that its members could voluntarily settle these claims from Outlaw Laboratory for $2,500.

Outlaw also filed more than 25 federal lawsuits in 2018 and 2019.

In its Alamance County suit, the company is claiming unfair competition from these products, misleading consumers with false advertising and marketing, and seeks to stop the defendants from selling the products, and to pay the profits they have made on these products to Outlaw Laboratory.

(c)2019 Times-News (Burlington, N.C.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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