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Meth-Like Stimulant Found In ‘Craze’ Workout Powder; Production Stops

A rock of crystal meth (not found in Craze.) Photo: Psychonaut/Wikimedia Commons

A rock of actual crystal meth (not the analog found in Craze.) Photo: Psychonaut/Wikimedia Commons

In medical research, “impact” usually refers to the number of times that an article or a journal is cited by others going forward. If your findings only ever find their way into, say, three sets of footnotes in other people’s papers, you can be pretty sure your impact is minimal.

In journalism, however, when you’re, say, applying for a Pulitzer prize, you need to show “impact” in the sense that your stories have led to significant change: The corrupt sheriff was ousted, or the systemic injustice corrected.

Dr. Pieter Cohen (Courtesy)

Dr. Pieter Cohen (Courtesy  Cambridge Health Alliance)

Dr. Pieter Cohen, a general internist at Cambridge Health Alliance who researches dietary supplements, has just crossed the line from the academic sort of impact to the journalistic: On Monday, he and colleagues published a paper warning that they had analyzed the popular pre-workout supplement Craze and found that it contained a little-studied methamphetamine-like substance. Now, USA Today reports: “Driven Sports, maker of the pre-workout supplement Craze, announced Tuesday that it has suspended all production and sales of the product in the wake of tests finding amphetamine-like ingredients.”

In fact, Driven Sports writes on its Website that it stopped production “several months ago while it investigated the reports in the media regarding the safety of Craze” — though it also maintains that Craze is safe and its own testing has found no amphetamine or other controlled substances.

But would we have known that Craze production had been suspended if Dr. Cohen’s study in the journal Drug Testing And Analysis had not appeared? We asked him for his main messages from the Craze tale, and he replied:

• Supplements are all assumed safe until proven otherwise by the FDA.  But the FDA has no effective system to detect hazardous supplements.

• In this setting it’s concerning to find that more and more supplements, like Craze, that contain new, untested compounds.  This can lead to serious health effects: The FDA is currently investigating whether a new ingredient in a weight loss supplement, aegeline, was responsible for one death and dozens of cases of severe hepatitis in Hawaii. Continue reading

More Than Mojo: ‘Natural’ Sex Pills May Contain Viagra Or Worse

(Source: FDA)

(Source: FDA)

The patient was not complaining, by any means. He’d just started a new “natural” sex enhancement supplement, and he reported that it was working terrifically.

But Dr. Pieter Cohen’s astute resident at the Somerville Hospital primary care clinic, Dr. Rachael Bedard, had her suspicions, and she brought the patient to his attention. Dr. Cohen, a general internist at Cambridge Health Alliance and a frequent medical mythbuster, sent the pill out to be tested.

“The lab not only found Viagra in it,” he recalled. “They also found Cialis, another erectile dysfunction drug, as well as a brand new designer drug, as well as caffeine.” So in all, “You’ve got two prescription drugs that we would never prescribe together, a brand new drug, and caffeine, all in one pill. And that’s what our patient was consuming when he thought he was taking a natural sex enhancer.” In fact, the supplement, Sex Plus, was “chock full of pharmaceuticals that had nothing to do with nature.”

Dr. Bedard sent the findings to the FDA, which did its own testing and ended up issuing this alert late last month. And Dr. Cohen has just co-authored a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine — “Adulterated Sexual Enhancement Supplements,” subtitled “More Than Mojo” — spreading the word that sex-enhancement supplements advertised as natural may in fact be nothing of the kind. And they may contain brand new designer erectile-dysfunction drugs whose potential dangers are anyone’s guess.

His bottom line: “If you want a natural sex enhancer, talk to your doctor about prescription ‘yohimbe,’ but it may have side effects and it’s not very effective. Still, if you want to avoid Viagra, that’s the way to go. When it comes to any supplement sold for sexual enhancement, it should be avoided because it’s either going to be useless or potentially harmful.”

What might be the danger of, say, the drug that Somerville patient was taking? Continue reading

Study: Multivitamins Slightly Reduce Cancer Risk In Older Men

(US Navy via Wikimedia Commons)

Please don’t groan. Yes, this is one more of those confusing studies that seem to flip-flop the previous confusing studies. But let’s just file it away as a valuable data point in an evolving picture, and rejoice that at least, as these studies get bigger and better, the findings should become stronger.

Last we heard — last fall, actually — a study of more than 38,000 older women in Iowa brought disturbing news to the millions who take daily vitamins. It found, as NPR reported: “Use of many common supplements — iron, in particular — appeared to increase the risk of dying, and only calcium supplements appeared to reduce mortality risk. The increased risk amounted to a few percentage points in most instances.”

Now comes a somewhat countervailing study: The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that in 15,000 older men, multivitamins do confer apparent benefit, reducing the total risk of cancer by 8 percent. I spoke with the study’s co-author, Dr. Howard Sesso, an associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He acknowledged my flip-flip complaint, but noted that this latest study does take the research up a notch:

Previous multivitamin studies have been “observational studies,” he said. “These are free-living populations, and they take multivitamins or they don’t,” and the researchers would try to control for the pre-existing differences between vitamin takers and non-takers.

This new research, he said, is different in that among the 15,000 men in the Physicians’ Health Study, it randomly assigned men to take vitamins or a placebo, for an average of 11 years. So it’s longer-term than previous studies, and it is “the first long-term randomized trial that tested whether daily multivitamin use prevents cancer.”

In a few weeks, he noted, the researchers will also present data on vitamins’ effects on heart and blood-vessel health. And in a months, on eye disease and cognitive function. Continue reading