January 21, 2010
Guilty Plea in Sale of Products With Steroids
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT and NATASHA SINGER
VMG Global, a sports nutrition company in California, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to selling products under the guise of dietary supplements that had been illegally spiked with steroids, according to court documents.
The Food and Drug Administration has jurisdiction over dietary supplements, defined as products that can offer general health benefits but cannot claim to treat specific diseases or symptoms. Products marketed as dietary supplements that are found to contain undeclared pharmaceutical ingredients like steroids are considered to be illegal, misbranded drugs.
Last year, the F.D.A. warned consumers not to buy products marketed as body-building supplements because of concerns that some items might contain undeclared steroids, which can cause serious long-term health problems like acute liver injury, the agency said.
From 2005 through the middle of 2009, according to the documents, VMG Global, which also does business as American Cellular Labs, knowingly deceived consumers and the government by marketing two illegal drug products that each contained a synthetic anabolic steroid under the guise of dietary supplements.
During this time period, the illegal products, called Tren Xtreme and Mass Xtreme, generated revenue of about $5.6 million, the documents said. Mass Xtreme, for example, contained Madol, a designer steroid first identified six years ago during the investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative, the documents said.
VMG Global pleaded guilty to one charge of introducing unapproved drugs into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud and mislead, according to a plea agreement filed Wednesday in United States District Court in San Jose, Calif.
As part of the plea agreement, the company agreed to pay penalties of up to $500,000. It also agreed to destroy its remaining inventory of the two products.
Rick Collins, a lawyer representing VMG Global, said the company had cooperated with the government to resolve the case in a fair and appropriate manner.
“The felony prosecution and the substantial fine imposed should serve as a warning to supplement companies selling misbranded products that do not fit the criteria for a dietary ingredient,” Mr. Collins wrote in an e-mail message in response to a query from a reporter.
Separately, last Friday, another sports nutrition company, MuscleMaster.com of Northborough, Mass., announced a recall of 17 products marketed as dietary supplements.
The company said it was recalling the products because the F.D.A. thought the items contained undeclared steroids.
A press release from the company said it could not confirm that the products contained steroids and had not received any reports of injury, but had recalled the products out of caution.