2019 Supplement Safety Year in Review: Herbalife Controversy and Other ‘Scam’ Supplements

Earlier this year, DocWire News highlighted weight loss product Herbalife. A case report from India connected products from Herbalife to acute liver failure. The findings follow similar reports from other countries, including Israel, Spain, Switzerland, Iceland, Argentina and the United States. The study, published in the March-April issue of the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hepatology, also points out the dangers associated with herbal and dietary supplements (HDSs), many of which promise results with no factual basis.

More recently, Herbalife agreed to pay $20 million in order to settle fraud allegations brought on by investors in China. The Wall Street Journal reported:

“Herbalife told investors that it structured compensation differently in China because multilevel marketing, the company’s sales model in most countries, is illegal in that country. Billionaire investor William Ackman in 2014 accused Herbalife of operating a pyramid scheme in China in violation of local laws.

“Mr. Ackman wagered $1 billion that Herbalife’s business model was fraudulent. He eventually exited his short position as Herbalife’s stock continued to rise in defiance of his thesis.”

Other Supplement News

Earlier this year, five executives from USP Labs and S.K. Laboratories pleaded guilty to charges in relation to products containing methylhexanamine, known as DMAA, including Jack3d and OxyElite Pro. The legal action followed the 2011 death of 22-year-old Michael Sparling, who collapsed during a run with his Army unit in Fort Bliss, Texas. He died later that day; the cause of death was cardiac arrest. Sparling had been consuming Jack3d powder every for a month ahead of his death.

According to the Department of Justice:

“Cyril Willson, 38, of Ralston, Nebraska, and Matthew Hebert, 40, of Dallas, pleaded guilty today to introducing misbranded food into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead. Jonathan Doyle, 40, of Dallas, the president of USPlabs, pleaded guilty February 21 to conspiracy to introduce misbranded food into interstate commerce. Sitesh Patel, 35, of Irvine, California, the vice president of S.K. Laboratories, a California dietary supplement manufacturer, pleaded guilty on February 25 to conspiracy to introduce misbranded food into interstate commerce and to the introduction of misbranded food into interstate commerce. Jacobo Geissler, 42, of University Park, Texas, the CEO of USPlabs, pleaded guilty on February 28 to conspiracy to introduce misbranded food into interstate commerce. In addition, S.K. Laboratories pleaded guilty on February 25 to introduction of misbranded food into interstate commerce, and USPlabs pleaded guilty to conspiracy to introduce misbranded food into interstate commerce on March 5.”

Americans spend more than $30 billion each year on “complementary health approaches,” according to national data.