GNC Accused Of Selling Nutritional Supplements with Illegal Ingredients

GNC Accused Of Selling Nutritional Supplements with Illegal Ingredients
GNC, Vitamin Shop, Store Mike Mozart / Flickr CC BY 2.0
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General Nutrition Corporation (GNC) has been accused of selling nutritional and dietary supplements that contain illegal ingredients by the Oregon Department of Justice.


Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum had filed a lawsuit against the health supplement retailer for allegedly violating the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act by mixing unapproved drugs into products declared as lawful dietary supplements.

The illegal ingredients at the center of the issue are picamilon and BMPEA. Picamilon is a synthetic chemical that is being prescribed in Russia to treat neurogical conditions, but one that has yet been approved in the United States. Similarly, BMPEA is being described as an “amphetamine-like substance,” which can sometimes be sold as a weight loss or performance enhancing supplement. Rosenblum asserts, “When Oregonians buy a dietary supplement, they deserve to know that the ingredients in the products are safe and comply with the law.”

The lawsuit against GNC was filed in Multnomah Circuit Court. It alleges that GNC knew of picamilon not being a lawful dietary ingredient as early as May 22, 2007 when GNC Senior Product Manager for Technical Research Jennifer Jakel reviewed the available literature regarding the said synthetic chemical. Nonetheless, Jakel reportedly indicated “No NDI (new dietary ingredient)” in her May 2007 review for the GNC library file on picamilon. Moreover, Jakel came to the same conclusion in April 2014.

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Several products retailed by GNC contain picamilon including the Charge Extreme Energy Booster, Lean Body for her Fat Burner, Lean Body Hi Energy Fat Burn, Testek, Riptek V2, Mr. Hyde RTD Fruit Punch, Vanish Bonus, Nirvana and ENGN Green Apple among others.

Meanwhile, synthetic drug BMPEA was believed to be found naturally in the acacia rigidula (AR) plant. However, analysis by the US Food and Drug Administration found that the AR plant actually does not contain BMPEA. Afterwards, an FDA study revealed that 43% of the dietary supplements tested that were labeled as containing AR were “spiked” with BMPEA.

GNC is said to be aware of this FDA study as Jakel was notified by a PubMed service that it was available online back in November 2, 2013. A few days later, an article on the said study was also published in USA Today and it was found that Jakel circulated the said article to around 100 recipients in the GNC headquarters. Among the recipients was GNC Senior Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer Guru Ramanathan. GNC was found to have sold products with AR in the ingredients as well as products that contain undisclosed BMPEA.

The lawsuit is demanding for relief, although no amount was specified. Just last May Oregon Assistant Attorney General David Heart and his DOJ team reached a settlement with national retailer Vitamin Shoppe to ban BMPEA products from its stores.