Updated August 13, 2003 12:29 a.m.
Some Male 'Enlargement' Pills Contain a Variety of Impurities

NANAIMO, British Columbia -- On the main street of this former coal-mining town, one bustling business stands out amid the abandoned storefronts. Inside the glass-fronted office, more than two dozen staffers are packed into cubicles. A sign on the front door says "Help Wanted, Groundfloor Opportunity, Internet Company."

This is the headquarters of Performance Marketing Ltd., one of the world's purveyors of so-called penis-enlargement pills. Once relegated to the back pages of dirty magazines, Performance Marketing and its rivals -- thanks to e-mail marketing partners -- are now among the pushiest of all pill pushers.

But don't bank on the promised "three inches." There is no scientific evidence that any pill can enlarge the penis, says Franklin C. Lowe, professor of clinical urology at Columbia University. "If it were legitimate," he says, "I'd be a billionaire."

What some customers might get from Performance Marketing's pills is a less-than-sexy dose of bacteria and other contaminants. Commissioned by The Wall Street Journal, Flora Research, San Juan Capistrano, Calif., conducted an independent laboratory analysis of a composite sample of 10 Performance Marketing pills and turned up significant levels of E. coli, yeast, mold, lead and pesticide residues.

The amount of E. coli bacteria -- 16,300 colony-forming units per gram -- appears to be particularly high, experts say. "I think it's safe to say it has heavy fecal contamination," says Michael Donnenberg, head of the infectious-diseases department at the University of Maryland. Although E. coli won't necessarily make you sick, Dr. Donnenberg says fecal matter, which might have come from animals grazing near herbal ingredients harvested for the pills, is prime breeding ground for all sorts of viruses, parasites and bacteria.

When presented with the test results, the company said it would investigate the quality of the pills provided by its third-party manufacturer. Performance Marketing President Kevin Atkinson said, "Performance Marketing is dedicated to ensuring only the highest quality." The company "greatly appreciates being made aware of the alleged irregularities. ... We're going to do everything to take care of this," he said, adding that Performance Marketing hasn't received any complaints about its products.

Many buyers of Performance Marketing's pills are in the U.S., where the Food and Drug Administration doesn't regulate such supplements. Canada, which requires that any product making health claims must be approved by the government, hasn't approved sales of the pills. In March, Canadian authorities blocked Performance Marketing from receiving a shipment of product until it removed all claims regarding sexual impotence from its Web site. Once the company complied, the shipment was allowed to go through, according to Krista Apse, spokeswoman for the national health department. Performance Marketing says it "fully complied with all Health/Welfare Canada requirements" before marketing its products.

Performance Marketing, which markets its pills on its Web site and distributes its pills through a subsidiary called American Pharma, has grown to 25 employees from just one in the past year and a half, and employees work in shifts shipping out bottles of pills around the clock. "Before we got started four years ago, I thought the Internet was over," says the company's 32-year-old founder Duane Gartman. "Now I realize it's just the beginning. ... I think this is a gold rush, and I want to stake my land."

The company was incorporated in 1999 and for 2000 reported sales of 430,000 Canadian dollars (US$311,000 at current exchange rates), according to records kept by Dun & Bradstreet. Mr. Gartman declined to comment on current sales figures.

Mr. Gartman began his Internet experience selling herbal medicines for pets on a Web site called From there, he says, he moved on to selling herbal penis-enlargement pills. He runs the business along with other members of his family, including his sister Colleen and his parents. It's not clear why they chose to locate in Nanaimo with its depressed economy and the sour smell of a pulp mill wafting through the air.

After a 20-minute interview, Mr. Gartman said he didn't want to reveal his trade secrets for fear of tipping off competitors and ushered this reporter to the door. "I'm not going to tell the other team how to win," he said.

One way merchants of "enlargement" win is through paying high commissions to e-mail marketers. Performance Marketing disavows any involvement with junk e-mail, known as spam, but it pays a 40% commission to Web sites, which it dubs affiliates, that generate sales of its $59.99 bottles.

Web sites that monitor spam show that Performance Marketing's penis-enlargement "Optimum" pill regularly are spam subjects. Ruth Blair, Performance Marketing's marketing manager, speculates that such messages were generated by a now-defunct affiliate.

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Wall Street Journal Table:
An independent analysis showed that Performance Marketing's penis-enlargement pills contained levels of contaminants over those suggested by, a rating agency for the nutritional supplement industry.

General bacteria88,000 CFU/gm (1)100,000 CFU/gm
Yeast and mold1,400 CFU/gm1,000 CFU/gm
Coliforms(2)48,800 CFU/gm1,000 CFU/gm
E. coli (3)16,300 CFU/gm0 CFU/gm
Lead0.847 (4)0.5 to 2.0
Cadmium0.043 ppm (5)0.30 ppm
Pesticides0.36 ppm0.30 ppm
(1) Colony-forming units per gram
(2) Intestinal-tract micro-organism
(3) Preliminary tests only
(4) Micrograms per daily dose (a daily dose is three pills)
(5) Parts per million

Source: Flora Research

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