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Few Controls on Potentially Dangerous Supplements Widely Used by Troops Cont.
DMAA’s Safety Questioned
Meanwhile, the controversy over DMAA highlights the complexity surrounding the issue of supplements. While companies that make and distribute DMAA-containing products have argued that the substance is naturally derived from geraniums and, therefore, is legally sold as a dietary supplement, that claim is controversial.
Health Canada, Canada’s federal health department, for example, has come to the conclusion that DMAA is not found naturally in geranium and that products including it should have drug authorization in that country. Recent lawsuits in the U.S. also have argued that DMAA is not a naturally-occurring substance.
One recent class-action lawsuit filed in February accused GNC and Cellucor Sports Nutrition of the “illegal and deceptive practice of promoting, marketing, distributing and/or selling purported dietary supplements which, unknown to plaintiff and other consumers, contain a dangerous substance.
“Although defendants contend that DMAA is derived from the geranium plant or is a ‘natural’ product entitling them to sell it as a ‘dietary supplement’ rather than a ‘drug,’ the DMAA contained in C-4 Extreme is wholly synthetic, manufactured and not derived from the geranium plant,” the lawsuit stated. C-4 Extreme is no longer made with DMAA.
The military’s own investigation was spurred by the deaths of a 22-year-old soldier, who collapsed during a physical fitness training run with his unit in the summer of 2011, and a 32-year-old soldier who also collapsed while taking the Army physical fitness test in the fall of 2011. Other troops also have stated they were using DMAA-containing products that could be associated with adverse events, according to the Army.
“A number of other adverse event reports have identified kidney and liver failure, seizures, loss of consciousness, heat injury, muscle breakdown during exertion and rapid heartbeat in servicemembers who indicated that they were using DMAA-containing products, sometimes along with other dietary supplements. Although it is unknown at this time if DMAA was a factor in the deaths or other adverse events, and while it is possible for servicemembers to obtain DMAA-containing products off-base, we recommend all servicemembers consult with their medical providers before using over-the-counter dietary and performance supplements,” Army Medical Command officials told U.S. Medicine.
Officials said the Army Public Health Command and the DoD Human Performance Resource Center (http://hprc-online.org/) already provide educational materials about the effectiveness and safety of dietary supplements and soon will launch an educational campaign, “Operation Supplement Safety,” targeting troops across all services.
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