Craze is marketed by Driven Sports as an all-natural pre-workout supplement. Detonate is marketed by Gaspari Nutrition as an all-natural weight loss supplement.
(Photo: Alison Young, USA TODAY)
The maker of the popular sports supplement Craze, which scientists say contains a methamphetamine-like compound, revealed Tuesday that it has suspended all production and sales of the product.
Driven Sports, which has declined USA TODAY's repeated interview requests, posted a statement on its website disclosing that the New York-based company suspended production "several months ago while it investigated the reports in the media regarding the safety of Craze."
In July, a USA TODAY investigation revealed that a top Driven Sports official, Matt Cahill, is a convicted felon who has a history of putting risky products on the market and that tests of Craze by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and a lab in Sweden had found amphetamine-like compounds in the pre-workout powder.
On Monday, a team of scientists from the U.S. and the Netherlands published an article in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Drug Testing and Analysis saying they had identified an analog - or chemical cousin - of methamphetamine in samples of Craze. They warned that the chemical has never been studied in humans, that the health risks are unknown and that it is not disclosed on Craze's label.
Driven Sports says that its own studies continue to show Craze is safe "when used responsibly" and that tests it has commissioned "have consistently indicated that Craze does not contain amphetamines or controlled substances." It added "the confidence of our retailers to sell the product and our consumers to buy the product is our primary concern so we will continue the suspension of the production and sale of Craze for the foreseeable future until these issues are resolved."
Walmart.com, Bodybuilding.com and some other online retailers stopped selling Craze earlier this summer in the wake of the USA TODAY investigation, but tubs of the pre-workout powder continued to be available for purchase elsewhere online and in GNC stores. Recently, the product was no longer available on GNC.com and Driven Sports' own website listed Craze as out of stock.
GNC officials have declined to be interviewed. In a statement the retailer said: "With third party products, GNC is simply the retailer and, like all retailers, relies upon the representations and contractual warranties made by the vendor that the products are safe and compliant with all applicable laws and regulations."
In a related development this week, NSF International announced that in separate testing they found the same meth-like compound in the weight-loss supplement Detonate, which is marketed by Gaspari Nutrition. NSF International is a Michigan-based testing organization; one of its scientists co-authored Monday's journal article about Craze.
Gaspari Nutrition officials did not respond to interview requests and as of Tuesday night had removed Detonate from its website's list of products. Detonate was still listed on Gaspari's website as of Oct. 10, according to a version of the page archived by Google that day. Detonate remains available for sale online and in some stores. USA TODAY was able to purchase a bottle of Detonate on Tuesday at a Vitamin Shoppe store in Sterling, Va., but found several GNC and Vitamin Shoppe stores in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. did not have it in stock.
Driven Sports says it believes that the independent labs and scientists who have found amphetamine-like and methamphetamine-like compounds in Craze may have made a mistake in their tests. Craze's label says it contains dendrobium orchid extract, which the company says has naturally occurring phenylethylamine compounds. The statement says that these other scientists' tests may be mistaking the natural compound for amphetamine-like substances.
Driven Sports says its labs' tests indicate the presence of "n-beta DEPEA" in Craze" and that this compound is "a related but very different substance" from the n,alpha DEPEA identified in Monday's journal article. The company said it is "very difficult to distinguish these two substances unless you know precisely what you are looking for and are using the proper test methodology."
In an e-mailed statement, the journal article's authors said that "their argument holds no merit" and that Driven Sports is "just throwing out new chemical names to try to confuse." The authors said that n-beta DEPEA is "a completely different molecule" and that the differences in the molecule would have made them act differently on two of the three tests they ran.
"We stand 100% behind our results," said the research team: Pieter Cohen of Harvard Medical School; John Travis, a scientist at NSF International; and Bastiaan Venhuis of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands.
Another team of scientists based in South Korea found the same methamphetamine-like substance when they tested other samples of Craze. Their findings were published in a forensic toxicology journal in August.
Neither the Food and Drug Administration nor the Drug Enforcement Administration could be reached for comment because of the federal government shutdown.
Amy Eichner, a special advisor on supplements at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, noted that both Craze and Detonate have been listed on the nonprofit organization's "high risk" supplement list. "There needs to be a serious examination of the current regulations of supplements," she said, "and changes must be made in order for the FDA to have the necessary tools to effectively regulate the supplement industry."
Although dietary supplements -- such as vitamins, minerals and herbal pills -- are often marketed as health remedies, the FDA does not have the authority to require pre-market testing for safety or effectiveness as it does with medications. Supplement industry officials have said that greater enforcement, not new regulations, are what is needed to address problem products and makers.
Driven Sports and Gaspari Nutrition, the companies marketing Craze and Detonate, are both members of the American Herbal Products Association. The association did not respond to questions or an interview request from USA TODAY about the findings of meth-like compounds in the companies' products.