Stimulant Potentially Dangerous to Health, FDA Warns

FDA warns public of dimethylamylamine stimulant due to reports of illnesses

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is using all available tools at its disposal to ensure that dietary supplements containing a stimulant called dimethylamylamine (DMAA) are no longer distributed and available for sale to consumers in the marketplace.

The ingredient, DMAA, is most commonly used in supplements promising weight loss, muscle building and performance enhancement; it can elevate blood pressure and could lead to cardiovascular problems, including heart attack, shortness of breath and tightening of the chest. Given the known biological activity of DMAA, the ingredient may be particularly dangerous when used with caffeine.

FDA has received 60 reports of illnesses and death associated with supplements containing DMAA. The majority are voluntary reports from consumers and healthcare practitioners. The illnesses reported include heart problems and nervous system or psychiatric disorders. Note, however, that a report is not proof that the product actually caused the problem.

FDA has warned companies known to be using DMAA in dietary supplements that those products containing this ingredient are illegal. Such warnings offer the quickest way at FDA's disposal to halt the further distribution of dietary supplements containing DMAA in the marketplace. In fact, all but one of the companies sent a Warning Letter have agreed to stop using DMAA as an ingredient in their dietary supplements. The one company that has yet to agree to such action, USPLabs, has responded to FDA's warning by submitting published studies that purport to challenge FDA's conclusions.

However, after reviewing the studies provided by USPLabs, FDA has found the information insufficient to defend the use of DMAA as an ingredient in dietary supplements. FDA is finalizing a formal response to the firm to reflect its findings, according to Daniel Fabricant, PhD, director of FDA's Division of Dietary Supplement Program.

FDA's authority over dietary supplements is very different from its authority over drugs and other medical products. FDA is required to undertake what are usually lengthy scientific and legal steps in order to force the removal of dietary supplements that may be unsafe or are otherwise illegal if companies don't voluntarily comply.

As FDA continues the process needed to get DMAA off the market, the agency is urging consumers to check labels and avoid any dietary supplements containing DMAA, which is referred to on different product labels by 10 possible names. The alternatives are listed at FDA's DMAA web page.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 12, 2013
Last Updated:
April 12, 2013