Dietary supplement behind recent cases of liver failures revealed

Hawaii State Department of Health asks retailers to voluntarily remove all OxyELITE Pro products from shelves

Published  5:44 PM HST Oct 08, 2013

One of the hottest selling weight loss products on the market is under fire by the Hawaii State Department of Health. OxyELITE Pro products have health officials questioning whether it's the source of liver problems in dozens of people in the islands.

There are several types of OxyELITE Pro products, from pill to powder form. All of them are being targeted in this investigation.

After nearly two weeks, health officials say the common item linked to several recent cases of acute liver failure in Hawaii is OxyELITE Pro products.

The popular dietary supplement can be found at GNC stores and at least four Vitamin Shoppe's throughout the islands. It claims to help you lose weight, but the product may have serious side effects.

"The effects are so severe, we needed to take some action," said Loretta Fuddy, Hawaii State Department of Health.

So far, 29 cases have been confirmed across all four counties. Health officials say OxyELITE Pro is the only product that 24 of those patients used prior to developing symptoms. Eleven of those patients were hospitalized for acute hepatitis, two patients received liver transplants, and one died. Health officials are sending an alert to the public.

"If they are using a dietary supplement, they should use it while consulting with their physician and if they are not feeling well, then even more they should be talking with their physician," said Fuddy.

Twenty-five health safety officers were sent out across Oahu and a dozen more on the neighbor islands, delivering the Health Department's request to retailers asking them to discontinue all sales in Hawaii. Early reports say some stores haven't agreed.

"The GNC store in Ala Moana Center has told our inspector that they have chose not to remove the product from the store," said Gary Gil, Hawaii State Department of Health.

OxyELITE Pro has been under investigation by the Food and Drug Administration in the past because of a banned ingredient called DMAA.. The product's maker, USP Labs, stopped making the original product earlier this year. The product on shelves now is a new formula that the company says is safe.

"The company stands by the safety of all of its products," said USP Labs in a statement. "The company continues to believe these versions are safe and are not the cause of the cluster of liver toxicity that has occurred in Hawaii."

USP Labs says it is cooperating with the FDA. Meanwhile, it's still unclear how long OxyELITE Pro products will remain on store shelves. If retailers don't comply with the health department's request, officials say they could face criminal penalties and their product could still be taken down.

"We didn't want to move to that step, we wanted to see if we could get some voluntary cooperation but that would be the next step that we'll be looking at," said Fuddy.

KITV4's call to the corporate offices of GNC was not returned. The FDA advises anyone using OxyELITE Pro products to stop while the investigation continues.

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