Posted 12 April 2015
From the New York Times:
Retailers to Stop Sales of Controversial Supplements
By Anahad O’Connor
April 9, 2015 5:27 pm
Some leading vitamin stores have announced that they were pulling from their shelves a group of supplements that may contain a dangerous stimulant.
Vitamin Shoppe, one of the country’s largest specialty retailers of dietary supplements, said that it planned to stop selling all supplements that list on their labels a plant known as acacia rigidula after a study published on Tuesday reported that many of these products contained an amphetamine-like stimulant called BMPEA.
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The authors of the study noted that the chemical, which was first synthesized in the 1930s as a replacement for amphetamine, has never been fully studied in humans and that under federal law is not an authorized dietary supplement ingredient. Canadian health authorities pulled a popular supplement that contains BMPEA from stores in December and warned consumers that the chemical could cause strokes and other serious cardiovascular complications.
The Food and Drug Administration itself discovered in 2013 that some weight-loss and workout supplements sold in the United States that list acacia rigidula on their labels also secretly contained BMPEA. The agency found the chemical in at least nine products but never named those products or warned consumers about the risk. Nor did it ask the companies to remove the stimulant from their supplements.
The study published on Tuesday, in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis, named 11 supplements that tested positive for BMPEA, all of which listed acacia rigidula on their labels. At least three of these supplements were on sale at Vitamin Shoppe, which has more than 700 stores throughout North America.
In response to news reports about the findings, the company said it was pulling all products that contain acacia rigidula from its stores and its website “out of an abundance of caution.”
The company said in a statement it was encouraging the F.D.A. “to use its authority to remove any dietary supplements from the market that it deems unsafe.”
Another vitamin and supplement retailer that said it was suspending its sales of several products named in the new study was VitaCost, which is owned by Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the country.
The Council for Responsible Nutrition, a leading industry trade group, also called on the agency “to take immediate enforcement action against these adulterated products containing BMPEA and the companies illegally spiking products with this synthetic drug.”
The F.D.A. said on Tuesday that its review of the available information on BMPEA “does not identify a specific safety concern at this time.” A spokeswoman for the agency reiterated that statement on Thursday.
But Dr. Pieter A. Cohen, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and the lead author of the new study on BMPEA, said that the agency was abdicating its responsibility to remove dangerous and adulterated products from the market.
“Instead of protecting the public’s health and enforcing the law, they are digging in their heels,” said Dr. Cohen, who is also an internist at the Cambridge Health Alliance. “By not acting on BMPEA in the face of overwhelming evidence that it has no role in supplements and may pose serious health risks, the F.D.A. is sending a strong signal to all supplement companies: you may introduce hazardous new products with impunity.”