More mystery ingredients, Oregon files suit against GNC for selling unapproved substances

The state of Oregon is alleging that General Nutrition Corporation (GNC) was selling dietary supplements that contained illegal ingredients. Oregon’s Attorney General (AG), Ellen Rosenblum filed suit against GNC on October 22, 2015, alleging that the company violated the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act (UPTA) in the sale of products containing the illegal substances. This action follows several other matters that have been investigated and brought to court by the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) with regard to adulterated or misbranded dietary supplements recently.

Ingredients and claims

According to the Oregon Department of Justice’s press release, the dietary supplements in question contained picamilon and BMPEA. Picamilon is a synthetic substance, which is not approved in the U.S., but in some countries is a prescription medication that is used to treat neurological conditions. The Oregon agency describes BMPEA as a “powerful stimulant and amphetamine-like substance.” The complaint against GNC also claimed that products that were labeled as containing botanical acadia rigidula were spiked with BMPEA.

The complaint stated that because of GNC’s violation of UPTA, it is liable for civil penalties as well as injunctive relief, restitution, and disgorgement. Rosenblum commented in the press release: “It is scary to know that certain products sold by GNC contain an ingredient that is not even labeled—let alone approved in the United States.” She also pointed out that the state believes that thousands of these products had been sold in the 25 GNC stores in the state “over the span of a couple of years.”

Similar matters

Recently, the federal DOJ has dealt with similar issues of adulterated or misbranded dietary supplements through investigations, settlements, and in some cases, charges and indictments against the offending companies and their owners. Some of these actions have ultimately resulted in recalls, penalties, and even incarceration for dietary supplement companies owners (see Dietary supplement maker agrees to cease manufacturing, recall products, Health Law Daily, September 28, 2015 and Misbranded diet supplement company owner faces 30 months in prison, fines, Health Law Daily, October 20, 2015). Moreover, earlier this year, the New York AG, Eric T. Schneiderman, sent GNC as well as Target, Walgreens, and Walmart, cease and desist letters alleging that some of the herbal substances sold at these stores contained products that did not contain the labeled substances or were missing certain substances on the labels that were in the products (see GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart herbal supplements allegedly mislabeled, contaminated, Health Law Daily, February 6, 2015).