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Over 70 “natural” supplements contain ingredient invented by Soviet scientists during the Cold War #YIKES

In late October, Oregon’s attorney general filed suit against GNC for knowingly selling dietary supplements that contain the impermissible supplement ingredients picamilon (aka pikatropin) and beta-methylphenethylamine (better known as BMPEA).

LegitScript covered the dangers of BMPEA in a blog post this past May — but what, exactly, is picamilon? An all-natural component of the rare-but-beautiful pica plant? No, this chemical was developed by Soviet scientists during the height of the Cold War. It is classified as a prescription drug in Russia, and used to treat a variety of neurological conditions. YIKES. The dietary supplement industry was sneaking Russian prescription drugs into its so-called “natural” products?

Yes, they were, according to the Oregon Attorney General. The picamilon-laden products mentioned in the Oregon AG’s lawsuit include: Pro Supps’ Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Evlution Nutrition’s ENGN; and Labrada Bodybuilding Nutrition’s Lean Body and Charge Extreme Energy Booster. LegitScript monitors these, as well as more than 70 other products that contain picamilon. We’ve been on top of this ingredient for over a year now, thanks in part to the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s 2014 seizure of 20,000 units of unlicensed medicines (which included picamilon).

The Oregon attorney general’s lawsuit highlights a disturbing trend — dietary supplement manufacturers are utilizing unregulated and potentially dangerous ingredients to boost the “efficacy” of their products before the FDA has a chance to test them. Remember DMAA and DMBA? It’s essentially a dangerous game of chicken, in which human lives are at stake.

So what’s next? It appears to be synephrine, a “fat burning” favorite, often listed parenthetically after the moniker Citrus aurantium or bitter orange extract.* This ingredient is found at 30-50% concentrations in many dietary supplements. TruVision (the maker of tru Weight & Energy) recently received an FDA warning letter, where the FDA noted:

“To the best of FDA’s knowledge, there is no history of use or other evidence of safety establishing that Bitter Orange Extract (synephrine 30%) will reasonably be expected to be safe when used as a dietary ingredient. In fact, there is evidence from short term human and animal studies suggesting that the consumption of products containing a high dosage of bitter orange extract and synephrine could lead to a significant increase in systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and heart rate.”

LegitScript will be keeping close tabs on Oregon’s case against GNC and hunting for 30% (and more) synephrine in dietary supplements. Stay tuned!

* Fun fact! Fat does not actually “burn.” This common misconception is a violation of the law of conservation of mass.