Lawsuit Accuses GNC Of Knowingly Selling Spiked Products

By McCarton Ackerman 10/26/15

Some supplements contained amphetamine-like chemicals.

GNC Dietary Supplement
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Health retailer GNC has come under fire from Oregon’s attorney general, who has filed a lawsuit accusing the company of knowingly selling products spiked with synthetic drugs.

The lawsuit from Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum claims that GNC sold 22 workout and fat-burner supplement products containing picamilon, a prescription drug used in Russia to treat neurological conditions, but sold the products as all-natural. Internal company records show a top official at GNC knew the drugs weren’t all-natural as far back as 2007. GNC discontinued selling them in September after being notified by the Oregon AG’s office that they were in violation of Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act.

Rosenblum also claimed that the chain knowingly sold workout and weight-loss supplements until earlier this year that had a synthetic amphetamine-like chemical known as BMPEA. She also noted that GNC reviews and pre-approves all labels, packaging and marketing materials for products sold in its store that are made by other companies.

In total, the suit alleges over 4,000 violations of Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act. Each violation carries a maximum penalty of $25,000, meaning GNC could potentially stand to lose more than $100 million in the lawsuit.

Oregon Assistant Attorney General David Hart slammed the FDA for not doing a better job of regulating these products and urged state and federal regulators to work together to keep residents safe.

"If the FDA is unable to take action, and the health and safety of Oregonians are threatened, Oregon can move in quickly to fill the regulatory void," he said in a statement. “Regardless of whether regulation of dietary supplements requires reform, more aggressive enforcement of existing laws will better protect consumers.”

Both GNC and the FDA have not commented on the lawsuit. In the past, the FDA has cited “significant hurdles and resource limitations" in regulating supplement products. The Dietary Health and Supplement Act of 1994 requires the FDA to first show that a product is unsafe before being permitted to either restrict its use or remove it from stores.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.