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Jennifer Grebow is editor-in-chief of Nutritional Outlook.
The announcement came yesterday as part of a joint-agency, year-long crackdown on the supplements market.
USPLabs LLC, a Dallas-based company charged with fraudulently selling illegal products as dietary supplements, faces severe criminal charges, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced yesterday. The USPLabs case is part of a joint, year-long sweep by numerous federal agencies of illegal products in the supplements industry.
Four individuals were arrested yesterday in connection with the USPLabs case, and two others planned to self-surrender. The individuals facing charges include the company’s CEO, its president, a company consultant, executives involved in package design and quality assurance, plus the company's contract manufacturer S.K. Laboratories (Irvine, CA). USPLabs’ CEO Jacobo Geissler, president Jonathan Doyle, and package-design employee Matthew Herbert were also charged with obstructing FDA proceedings and for conspiring to commit money laundering.
USPLabs is best known for marketing weight-loss and workout products Jack3d and OxyElite Pro. The company faces an 11-count indictment, which charges the company with, among other crimes, a “conspiracy to import ingredients from China using false certificates of analysis and false labeling,” the DOJ announced. The company allegedly lied to retailers and wholesalers, stating that Jack3d and OxyElite Pro contained natural plant extracts, when in fact products contained DMAA, a synthetic stimulant FDA classifies as an illegal ingredient in dietary supplements.
USPLabs has been on FDA's radar for years. In 2013, the company entered an agreement with FDA to recall its OxyElite product after the product was linked to an outbreak of reports of liver toxicity. The DOJ indictment says despite USPLabs’ agreement to recall the product, the company instead “engaged in a surreptitious, all-hands-on-deck effort to sell as much OxyElite Pro as it could as quickly as possible."
Numerous agencies are now working jointly to pursue companies illegally selling products as dietary supplements. The DOJ, working with FDA, announced an additional five civil cases brought this week against products making illegal drug claims to cure diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, herpes, and cancer and containing drug ingredients not listed on product labels, as well as a slew of recent FTC civil actions.
During the press conference, representatives emphasized the joint-agency effort since November 2014 to crack down on the supplements market against companies selling misbranded products. Since November 2014, 89 cases have been filed against individuals and companies marketing such products. The agencies are also coordinating with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Department of Defense, and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to bring further action. The agencies emphasized that they will continue working individually and together to continue the “nationwide sweep” of the supplements market.
The dietary supplement industry’s response to the sweeping crackdown is unanimously positive. Leading U.S. industry associations have longed urged agencies like the FDA to use their enforcement powers to pull illegal products from the market. “Today our request-on behalf of the responsible industry-was addressed,” said Steve Mister, president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, DC), in a press release.
“This afternoon’s press conference was welcome and overdue, and we were gratified to see the breadth of the agencies represented,” said Loren Israelsen, president of the United Natural Products Alliance (Salt Lake City, UT), in a press release. “For our part, we will continue to work closely with all regulators on the types of cases they described today to support and encourage a supplement industry that operates within the law and continues to be deserving of widespread consumer trust.”
The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA; Silver Spring, MD) and the Natural Products Association (NPA; Washington, DC) also applauded the regulators’ actions. “We have long called on the government to prosecute illegal activity to the full extent of the law, and today’s action demonstrates the government’s vast power to regulate this industry,” said NPA.
“Today’s press conference was a good demonstration of regulators taking action,” UNPA's Israelsen concluded. “We say, ‘Carry on.’”
Nutritional Outlook magazine