Sports supplement designer Matt Cahill, who has served a prison sentence for selling dangerous weight-loss pills, is now being investigated over the pre-workout supplement Craze, which contains a powerful and untested steroid.
Cahill, through a series of different Internet companies, has sold a variety of risky dietary supplements, USA Today reports. His weight-loss product was a mixture of baking powder and a highly toxic pesticide. Leta Hole, a 17-year-old Connecticut teenager, died after taking an intentional overdose of the product.
The main ingredient, DNP, was briefly sold as a weight-loss supplement in the 1930s, until users began developing cataracts, going blind, and dying. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cites the DNP debacle as one of the public health disasters that led Congress to enact the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act in 1938. Under that law, the FDA declared that DNP was too toxic for human use under any circumstance. Cahill purchased DNP under an alias, claiming he intended to use it as a pesticide in a landscape business.
Cahill and a partner were not directly charged with Leta Hole’s death, but did plead guilty to mail fraud and introducing a misbranded drug into commerce. Superdrol, another of Cahill’s supplements, sold as a muscle builder, has been implicated in liver damage, sometimes severe enough that a liver transplant is needed, USA Today reports. After taking Craze, bodybuilder Rob Riches failed a drug test, which cost him the British national championship.
Consumers hospitalized after taking some of Cahill’s earlier products wonder why regulators haven’t done more to protect the public. But Daniel Fabricant, director of the FDA dietary supplements division, said the FDA has less authority over supplements than over drugs. For a drug to enter the market, it must be approved as safe and effective, but supplements are treated as foods and are assumed to be safe unless proven otherwise. In order to intervene, Fabricant told USA Today, “we have to show that a product is harmful, is unsafe under all conditions of use, which is a significant scientific burden.”
In June 2012, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) did tests on a sample of Craze and found several prohibited stimulants in the product, including amphetamine and amphetamine-related compounds. The USADA lists Craze on its website’s High Risk Dietary Supplement List. Cahill denies that the banned substances are in Craze and says the product is safe when used as directed.