Speed-like drug found in weight loss supplements

Apr 07, 2015, 5:45 PM EDT
Colombian 8-year old Dana Garcia waits for a medical check-up, in Medellin, Antioquia department, Colombia on February 25, 2015, after she was rescued by members of 'Gorditos de Corazon' (Chubby at Heart) foundation in Sucre department and then transferred to Medellin city.

A study published in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis found that the stimulant beta-methylphenylethylamine -- BMPEA -- exists in more than half of 21 brands of Acacia rigidula supplements. This finding comes two years after that same substance was found in the same supplements on the market. Reuters reports:

BMPEA has been shown to raise blood pressure and heart rates in dogs and cats but has not been studied in humans. It is classified as a doping agent by the World Anti-Doping Agency because it is closely related to amphetamine.
An FDA spokeswoman, JuliAnn Putnam, said the agency's "first priority" is to ensure dietary supplements are safe and that "our review of the available information on products containing BMPEA does not identify a specific safety concern at this time."
She said the FDA "will consider taking regulatory action, as appropriate, to protect consumers."
Dr. Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and lead author on the study, said the FDA should warn consumers immediately about BMPEA and take action to eliminate it from dietary supplements.
"Let's not wait until we have a body count," he said. "Just get the job done."
In a statement, CRN president and CEO Steve Mister said "we urge [the] FDA to take immediate enforcement action against these adulterated products containing BMPEA and the companies illegally spiking these products with this synthetic drug."
The FDA discovered BMPEA in supplements in a 2013 study, but according to Cohen, took no appropriate action to remove BMPEA from dietary supplements.
In fact, Cohen noted in his study published in Drug Testing and Analysis: "Since the FDA discovered BMPEA in supplements, the percentage of brands of Acacia rigidula supplements that contain BMPEA has appeared to increase from 42.9 percent in 2012 to 52.4 percent in 2014."
The synthetic component also sparked international concern. Cohen said Health Canada removed supplements with BMPEA from their market and the European Union has also been clear on its stance: "Acacia rigidula is not permitted to be sold until there is additional evidence of safety."