The dietary supplements had ominous names, like Black Widow and Yellow Scorpion. They contained an illegal and potentially dangerous molecule, similar in structure to amphetamines.

But when a Harvard researcher dared to point that out, in a scientific, peer-reviewed study and in media interviews, the supplement maker sued him for libel and slander.

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  • This article doesn’t provide any evidence BMPEA is harmful to humans, isn’t that the crux? The worst it can say is “it’s never been proven safe”, and that “It’s been shown to send blood pressure and heart rate soaring in dogs and cats”. Well so does caffeine and a host of other chemicals that are regarded as safe and not banned. Absent a finding it is a health problem Wheat has a reasonable case against Cohen, whatever Wheat’s background. And the potential benefits of weight loss and athletic performance improvement may make it a useful supplement for some people.

    If BMPEA is proven to be harmful, which Cohen hasn’t done, then that’s a different story. But until this happens it seems just another case of environmentalist/green/left wing hysteria (not the least of which is the left’s obligatory inclusion of a reference to Trump in anything it views as even vaguely unsavory).

    • Just to be clear, you think it is OK to take any one of the millions of untested chemicals that chemists can create, package it in a pill, and sell it to people? If you let people sell untested chemicals in supplements and only remove them AFTER they have been shown to be harmful, people will be hurt and likely die. If you require them to be shown to be safe BEFORE they can be sold, no one is hurt. Its a simple concept.

      Also, the Trump quote is directly relevant to the story. He could effectively silence researchers like this one.

    • You can chemically alter caffeine and sell it as a nutritional supplement. You cannot chemically alter amphetamine and sell it as a nutritional supplement, because amphetamine is legally a drug. In particular, it is a controlled substance. Accordingly, it doesn’t matter that BMPEA ‘may’ enhance performance or help with weight loss, it must be proven to be safe while caffeine does not. Wheat (Hi-Tech) never had a case.
      Hi-Tech’s lawyers and witnesses claimed, without evidence, that BMPEA had been evaluated in proprietary studies that have never been published. They also tried to persuade the jury that the compound had been tested by pointing to studies of molecules that are chemically similar to, but ultimately distinct from, BMPEA.
      If BMPEA was a nutritional supplement, they wouldn’t need ANY testing because nutritional supplements are largely exempt (sadly) from safety/efficacy regulations of FDA. But it’s a ‘drug’ and that’s the very reason Wheat/Hi-Tech tried to claim they could use data from studies of ‘comparable’ drugs.

    • Apparently, you are not entirely aware of the applicable federal laws. To introduce any substance as a dietary supplement in the U.S. that does not have a prior history of domestic use as a commonly consumed constituent of foods is illegal. In order to legally market such a substance, one would first have to submit evidence demonstrating its safety to the FDA as a New Dietary Ingredient (NDI). Wheat failed to comply with federal laws designed to protect consumers from products of unknown safety.

  • How proud I am of you. What a wonderful world this would be if more people were like you. And to think I know YOU?!! ❤️ Bills Mom

  • I have been concerned that some supplements I take could go away if they were put under the jurisdiction of FDA. Small companies doing legitimate herbals are just not going to be financed well enough to do the same kind of testing that big pharma is required to do. On the other hand, how do you weed out the bad actors like this company? Someone should be testing supplements to see what is in them, but does that mean millions of dollars and clinical trials? Is there some middle ground?

    • No, there is no middle ground. This situation is like the potent synthetic opiates coming in from China that are killing folks. The basic strategy is to use something closely related to a banned substance, something for which there’s no specific law banning use. The twist here is saying it came from natural sources. That this company is still in business speaks to the power of the legislation Orin Hatch got passed decades ago. With the new republican congress, there is practically no chance that this will change. We’re stuck with these products even though they are getting more dangerous. The FDA will be blamed if there is recognized harm from them, but the agency has very little power to change things and little funding to implement what power it has.

    • DSHEA was terrible bipartisan legislation. It is highly unlikely that anyone’s life has been ‘saved’ or even significantly enhanced because it exists. But thousands of people have been killed or severely injured by unsafe ‘dietary’ supplements.

    • “Someone should be testing…” Yeah, the people who want to make and sell them. The onus is and always should be on the proprietor to ensure and prove their products and services will do no harm to the consumer. By saying it’s too costly for herbal remedy makers to prove no-harm is essentially saying that it’s okay to willingly put other people’s health at risk in order to make money. If I go and make a car, and I sell it to you, but then after the purchase I tell you “oh hey, just FYI it was prohibitively expensive for me to prove to regulators that it won’t blow up with you and your family inside it” – how would you feel?

    • If you read the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), you will see that supplements, including herbal products, ARE under the jurisdiction of the FDA. Various organizations, commercial and academic, are continuously testing supplements to determine their authenticity and purity. For an excellent example of testing herbal products, check out the American Botanical Council’s program on the adulteration of medicinal plants. Another example is Consumer Labs. Even if you only looked at the results of those organizations, you would see that adulteration and false claims of what’s in a product are rampant in the U.S. marketplace. As for demonstrating the safety and effectiveness of herbal products, nothing less than well controlled, independently repeated human clinical trials will do.

    • Edmond Dantes – The reason DSHEA has a limited grandfather clause is that one can’t reasonably invent expensive new methods of studying the safety and efficacy of a product, then demand that every substance people consume be yanked off the market until it has been subjected to those methods. First, it’s enormously disruptive to the living culture that preceded the existence of either federal bureaucracy or the philosophy of scientism. Imagine applying such a policy to conventional foods: the public would starve to death, or riot and eat dead bureaucrats. Nor indeed do we seem to want to ban categories of conventional food, even though modern “post-marketing studies” suggest that they cause gigantically more disease than herbal products possibly could. Secondly, for unpatentable traditional products that people use occasionally and pay for out of pocket, let’s be clear: taking them all off the market and demanding many millions of dollars worth of studies be done for each one before it is sold again is equivalent to permanent prohibition.

      The suggestion that such a policy be considered provoked great public outrage, understandably. Hence DSHEA sensibly assumed that if people in the U.S. had already been using a plant and didn’t seem to be getting sick from it, and the FDA couldn’t manage to generate any evidence that anyone was getting sick, it probably wasn’t deadly poison.

      As with so many things, this can’t be discussed without acknowledging that value judgments are unavoidably involved. There are people who will eat an ounce of ginger in a stir-fry without hesitation but start blubbing about potential risks when a gram or so of the same plant is taken in a capsule with the intention of health benefit. I don’t get that attitude, but I am not going around stuffing ginger down the throats of people who feel safer taking an anti-nausea drug, say, with far worse known side effects. I respect their right to feel as they feel. In turn, I expect them to respect my right to feel otherwise.

  • Where is freedom of speech/press/research in fact-based research by academia? I guess a Harvard education means nothing.

  • “counting on President-elect Donald Trump to follow through on vows to to “open up” the nation’s libel laws to make it easier for parties who feel they have been defamed to win lawsuits.”

    I guess they don’t teach Article II (or state-level civil tort law, wherein libel actions are lodged) at the Trump University® Skool of Law.

  • Climate Science Legal Defense Fund ( does legal advice and defense for climate scientists. Medical researchers need something similar. This is a well-written article, which means Ms. Robbins probably made enemies somewhere today.

  • I’m close to finishing Shawn Otto’s exhaustive book “The War on Science” and will be reviewing it on my KHIT blog. A highly recommended book. We are on a path to a dark and dangerous time. This is one example. Props to STATnews for this article. I also recommend to everyone the excellent work at

  • Scientists such as Dr. Cohen deserve the accolades and support of the entire academic and research field, and the gratitude of the public at large. Would it be legally winnable to initiate a class action against Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals and its owner, given evidence that the products are clearly not nutraceuticals? The use of the word Pharmaceuticals in the name of the company potentially amounts to consumer fraud as the company does not rely on FDA sanctioned trials to prove the benefit of their “products”.

  • Well written and revealing on many fronts. The gullibility of desire is intense. People continue to want sonething for nothing, the fringe body building/weight control market will never change. Bowing to contemporary cultural trends you have revealed one of the sources of the zombie hordes.
    Thank you.

  • All I know, is that many consumers/patients are taking supplements/herbals/nutraceuticals, etc. and many are not telling their physician or pharmacist they are doing so. We need to protect them and make sure they meet certain standards-GMP, etc. I used to work in a large academic community hospital with a well established oncology program and many of our patients were taking herbals, etc. and not telling their physicians and many physicians only believed in traditional medicine at the time, while these people were importing products from other countries.

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