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Supplement Company Faces Lawsuit over Soldier’s Death

Published on Feb 20, 2013 at 8:45 am in Product Liability.

Some dietary supplements intended to boost physical performance contain questionable ingredients that might lead to health problems. The company USPlabs, for instance, makes a product called Jack3d (pronounced “jacked”) that contains the stimulant dimethylamlamine (DMAA).

Department of Defense Pulled DMAA Products from Base Stores

DMAA has gotten a lot of negative attention recently. In December 2011, the Department of Defense decided to remove all supplements containing DMAA from on-base stores. The DoD reached this conclusion after two soldiers died shortly after using Jack3d.

Last week, the parents of one of those soldiers filed a new lawsuit against USPlabs claiming that the company deceived consumers by marketing Jack3d as a safe product without any mention of side effects such as increased heart rate and high blood pressure. GNC, the popular supplement store that sold Jack3d to the soldier, is also mentioned in the suit.

Is Jack3d Even a Supplement?

The legal issue actually goes deeper than whether these companies gave consumers misleading information. USPlabs and other companies might not even have the authority to include DMAA in their supplements.

The $30 billion dollar supplement industry has very little oversight in the United States. Since supplements can only contain dietary ingredients, they are treated more like foods than drugs.

This raises the question of whether DMAA is a drug or a dietary ingredient. For those who have been negatively affected by products like Jack3d, it’s clear that DMAA is a drug that does not belong in supplements.

DMAA was originally developed by Eli Lilly in the 1940s as a nasal decongestant. It doesn’t appear in any natural state. Outside of the supplement section, you can’t find it in your grocery store.

This could mean that companies like USPlabs have been selling pharmaceutical-grade stimulants to customers while evading FDA regulations. The FDA says that it has sent warning letters to companies manufacturing these products. So far, these letters have had little influence. A spokesman for the Council for Responsible Nutrition says that the FDA needs to make up its mind whether DMAA is considered a dietary ingredient.

It seems clear, though, that the FDA believes DMAA can pose serious health risks regardless of its legal classification.

USPlabs Sued for False Advertising

This isn’t the first time that USPlabs has been taken to court. Last December, the company paid $2 million to settle a false-advertising suit. Part of that settlement requires USPlabs to use larger warning labels with clearer language. It did not have to admit any wrongdoing.

USPlabs hasn’t taken the negative attention very well. It sued the owner of a supplement store for defamation after he mentioned DMAA’s harmful side effects on television. The case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

This doesn’t change the simple fact that more than 60 people have reported health problems to the FDA. It also doesn’t change the fact that a soldier died shortly after taking the recommended dosage of Jack3d from a GNC store at Fort Bliss, TX.