A dangerous amphetamine-like drug has been detected in a host of herbal weight-loss and workout supplements sold nationwide. Harvard researchers found this untested, unapproved stimulant, called BMPEA, in 11 of 21 products labeled as containing Acacia rigidula, an obscure Southwestern shrub. BMPEA has never been tested in humans or cleared for use in pharmaceuticals or supplements, but it’s been proven to raise heart rate and blood pressure in dogs and cats.
RELATED: What’s In Your Herbal Supplements?
The Food and Drug Administration has known for more than two years that sketchy manufacturers were using the name “Acacia rigidula” to mask this speed-like substance. However, the agency has yet to issue a public safety warning, name the fraudulent companies making these products, or ban the supplements from sale. Canadian officials, on the other hand, acted swiftly once they detected BMPEA in products claiming to contain Acacia rigidula, yanking them from store shelves last December. The Canadians also noted that these spiked supplements contain caffeine, which, when combined with BMPEA, can create a super-stimulant effect and potentially cause serious cardiovascular problems, including stroke.
The fact that the FDA sat on the knowledge that consumers were unknowingly being exposed to a dangerous drug and did nothing to stop it is puzzling. Because supplements are not required to earn FDA approval before going to market, it is crucial that the agency use its authority to take action against companies that run afoul of the law. Punishable infractions include mislabeling products, making unsubstantiated disease claims, and — certainly — spiking supplements with substances closely related to meth. Even the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the supplement industry’s leading trade association which routinely defends the industry’s integrity against claims that it’s too loosely regulated, has publicly called on the FDA to enforce these laws before there are serious health consequences.