Alternative Medicine

GNC enters non-prosecution agreement over sales of illegal supplements

GNC store is seen in Westminster, Colorado

GNC store is seen in Westminster, Colorado  (Copyright Reuters 2016)

GNC Holdings Inc, the largest global dietary supplement retailer, has agreed to pay $2.25 million and reform its practices in a pact to avoid federal prosecution over its alleged sale of illegal dietary supplements, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Wednesday.

The non-prosecution agreement stems from allegations that GNC in 2013 sold in its stores nationwide a misbranded supplement called OxyElite Pro Advanced Formula, which is made by Dallas-based USP Labs.

USP Labs was indicted in November 2015 in a U.S. federal court in Dallas and is awaiting trial, the DOJ said. It stands accused of engaging in a conspiracy to import ingredients from China using false certificates of analysis and false labeling.

Later, the company allegedly told retailers the supplements contained natural plant extracts, when they actually contained synthetic stimulates made in China, the DOJ said.

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As part of the deal with the DOJ, GNC has vowed to suspend the sale of products if the Food and Drug Administration issues a public warning about them.

It is also required to create lists of acceptable and unacceptable ingredients that can be used in supplements and conduct more due diligence on its vendors. Finally, it is required to establish an industry-wide quality seal program.

"Unlawful dietary supplements are an important enforcement priority for the department," said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer in a statement.

"Today's resolution is a significant step forward in reforming an industry rife with alarming practices," he added.