GNC has ordered its 5,000 retail stores, including those located on military bases, to stop selling products made by USPlabs after the Dallas-based company's executives were charged with allegedly lying to government regulators and the public about ingredients of at least two products.
GNC officials said Nov. 19 that while the criminal charges are not related to current products on the market, they were suspending sales of all products made by UPSlabs "in the best interest of our customers."
"While ... we have no reason to believe there are any health and safety issues with respect to any USPlabs products currently sold by GNC, it is in our best interest … to suspend the sale of the company's products pending further review," Michael Archbold, CEO of GNC, said in a news release.
After GNC made the announcement, the Marine Corps Exchange stopped selling a reformulated version of the workout booster Jack3d, according to a spokesman from the Marine Corps Non-Appropriated Funds Business and Support Services Division.
The Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which carries the USPlabs workout supplement Jack3d Micro, is "evaluating the situation and will decide soon on whether the product will continue to be stocked," a spokeswoman said.
Navy Exchange spokeswoman Kristine Sturkie said USPlabs products were carried by GNC stores and not sold in the service's exchanges.
USPlabs and its top executives face criminal charges following a Justice Department investigation that alleges key ingredients in workout boosters such as Jack3d and OxyElite Pro are synthetic stimulants rather than natural ingredients as claimed.
An 11-count indictment handed down in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in mid-November charges USPlabs, S.K. Laboratory and five company executives with unlawful sale of dietary supplements, conspiracy to commit money laundering, obstructing an FDA proceeding, wire fraud and food mislabeling.
The supplements Jack3d and OxyElite Pro contained 1,3 dimethylamylamine, or DMAA, or other ingredients the company claimed were naturally derived from plants, including geraniums or bael, a fruit common in India.
But the Justice Department said the two companies conspired with Chinese manufacturers to create a paper trail claiming the ingredients were natural in an effort to ensure U.S. retailers would sell the products, while the substances actually were synthesized chemical compounds.
The Defense Department removed products containing DMAA, including Jack3d, from base stores and on-base GNCs in 2013 after the supplements were implicated in the deaths of at least two soldiers who suffered heart attacks during physical training.
A follow-on investigation found insufficient evidence to prove the supplements caused the deaths, but investigators still decided that the ingredient posed enough of a health risk to keep it off the shelves of military stores.
In 2012, the FDA told companies selling products containing DMAA to stop using the ingredient.
USPlabs voluntarily destroyed $8 million worth of Jack3d and OxyElite Pro after the FDA move, but then reformulated the products, which made their way back to store shelves.
According court documents, the reformulated OxyElite Pro contained aegeline, which the company claimed was a natural extract but investigators allege is also a synthetic stimulant.
The company also added another ingredient, labeled as cynanchum auriculatum root extract, to OxyElite Pro to promote weight loss.
When the new formula went on the market in October 2013, more than 50 residents of Hawaii, including some military family members, developed acute hepatitis and liver failure. At least one person died and three required liver transplants.
According to the Justice Department, four defendants were arrested Nov. 17 and two agreed to self-surrender.
Patricia Kime is a senior writer covering military and veterans health care, medicine and personnel issues.