Bestselling workout supplement faces probe in South Africa

The pre-workout supplement Jack3d. (Adiel Ismail)
The pre-workout supplement Jack3d. (Adiel Ismail)

The Medicines Control Council (MCC) in South Africa has initiated an investigation into the bestselling workout supplement Jack3d, which is exclusively supplied in the country by Bolus Distribution, Health24 can reveal.

The United States supplier of Jack3d is USPlabs.

Synthetic stimulants

In November the USPlabs chief executive officer Jacobo Geissler and president Jonathan Doyle, with four other executives, were arrested on criminal charges after a US Department of Justice investigation.

Read: Lawsuits against makers of Jack3d

Authorities allege key ingredients in workout boosters, such as Jack3d, are synthetic stimulants rather than natural ingredients as claimed.

The Dallas-based, Texas, company is accused of falsely marketing its products, which allegedly contain the amphetamine-like stimulant dimethylamine also known as DMAA.

It is commonly used in supplements that promote weight loss and those used to improve athletic performance and bodybuilding.

The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database describes DMAA as a drug originally used as a nasal decongestant.

It states that use of DMAA could be unsafe because there is concern that it increases the risk of serious adverse cardiovascular events, similar to other stimulants such as synephrine in bitter orange and ephedrine alkaloids from ephedra.

“There are several case reports linking dimethylamylamine to serious adverse events, including lactic acidosis, haemorrhagic stroke, heat stroke and death,” it said.

Read: Methylexaneamine: the latest doping drug?

The Medicines and Related Substances Act of 1965 (Act 101 of 1965) states that substances in a medicine must be listed in one of nine schedules.

In South Africa DMAA is banned and it is illegal to sell it. It falls in the same category as dagga, the MCC’s Registrar of Medicines Dr Joey Gouws told Health24.

Special permit

“DMAA has been listed as a Schedule 7 substance since March 2013. For purposes of association, cannabis or dagga is also a Schedule 7 substance,” she said.

“Therefore just as cannabis is a banned substance that can be used only under very special circumstances where the director general of health provides the patient with a special permit, DMAA falls within the same category."

In clinical trials, DMAA has been reported to cause feelings of jitters, sleeplessness, shakiness, anxiety, chills, sweating, nausea, fatigue, tingling and lack of focus.

Gouws warned that sports people taking DMAA put themselves at risk of life-threatening side effects, such as high blood pressure, nausea and/or vomiting, cerebral haemorrhage, stroke and even death.

DMAA is also known as:

• 1,3 Dimethylamylamine'
• 1,3 DMAA
• 1,3 dimethylpentylamine
• 2-amino-4-methylhexane
• 2-hexanamine
• 4-methylhexane-2-amine
• 4-methyl-2-hexanamine
• 4-methyl-2-hexylamine
• 4-methyl-(9CI)
• dimethylamylamine
• geranamine
• methylhexeanamine

Health24 can confirm that Dis-Chem pharmacies and Xtreme Nutrition have been selling Jack3d to consumers in Cape Town.

Appropriate steps will be taken

The ingredients list indicates that it contains 1,3 Dimethylamylamine HCI, which is the salt of DMAA but still illegal, according to the MCC.

Read: Dis-Chem pulls fitness supplement Jack3d from shelves

Dis-Chem pharmacies promptly pulled the product from their shelves to have it independently tested and it was found to be free of DMAA.

However, the MCC’s Law Enforcement Unit will investigate further to find out if Jack3d sold in the country contains illegal ingredients.

“Appropriate steps will be taken if indeed the product is shown to contain the said [DMAA] banned substance,” Gouws said.

Drug Free Sport chief executive officer Khalid Galant told Health24 that the supplement industry is extremely lucrative in South Africa.

“Retailers have realised the risks to their brands when banned substances are found in it, so they certify a handful of products as ‘safe’ that are targeted at athletes who will be tested, but continue to stock other supplements that have illegal steroids or stimulants in them.”

Read: Are there any 'safe' sports supplements?

He said DMAA in particular has become ubiquitous in the past few years as a stimulant in supplements advocating quick weight loss, alertness and for combating fatigue.

Check the ingredients

Galant said because of the unregulated environment around supplements it is difficult to say specifically if a substance is banned or permitted as with registered medicines.

However, he noted that the US Anti-Doping Agency runs something similar, which South Africa is looking at emulating.

For now though, checking the ingredients of supplements is the best option available for people who take them.

“You have to, at a minimum, read the ingredients and cross-reference them with the substances on the list that are banned in sport,” said Galant.

“In our education sessions we advocate a very conservative position on supplements – don’t take them – but we do encourage users to read ingredients and also remind athletes that if the promises are too good to be true, then to be extra suspicious of the supplement.”

Also read:

Your guide to banned substances

Makers of nutritional supplements face charges

Clampdown on criminal steroid syndicates

How easy is it to get steroids in South Africa?

Click here for a list of supplements containing DMAA

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