Drug Policy

Energy Drink Crisis

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According to the FDA, the alchemy of marketing has transformed Cocaine, the controversial energy drink, into Cocaine, the new, unapproved, misbranded drug. In an April 11 letter, the FDA warns the manufacturer, Redux Beverages, that it is breaking the law by selling the sugary, caffeine-charged drink as a "street drug alternative," by incorrectly identifying it as a "dietary supplement," and by claiming that one of its ingredients can prevent and treat disease.

The last objection is the easiest to deal with. Redux can simply stop talking about the benefits of inositol, which its website used to claim "reduces cholesterol in the blood," "helps prevent hardening of the arteries," "may protect nerve fibers from excess glucose damage," "has a natural calming effect," and "may be used in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder without the side effects of prescription medications." If Redux gives up that marketing angle, it presumably will no longer feel a need to pretend that Cocaine is a dietary supplement (which can legally be advertised as preventing disease if there is substantial evidence to support the claim, although the FDA has a history of trying to squelch such information).

But it's hard to see how Redux can stop selling a "street drug alternative" without giving up on the brand completely. Among other things, the FDA objects to the brand name; the slogans "Speed in a Can," "Liquid Cocaine," and "Instant Rush"; and a tongue-in-cheek warning that use of the product "may result in excess excitement, stamina, …and possible feeling of euphoria." Redux's founders evidently did not see the FDA's March 2000 guidance document on street drug alternatives, which clearly states:

These products are intended to be used for recreational purposes to effect psychological states (e.g., to get high, to promote euphoria, or to induce hallucinations) and have potential for abuse. FDA considers these street drug alternatives to be unapproved new drugs and misbranded drugs under sections 505 and 502 of the [Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic] Act.

How does Redux stop intending that its product be used "for recreational purposes to effect psychological states"? That's the whole point of an "energy drink" (and of putting caffeine in soft drinks generally, but the FDA does not deign to notice that). I don't see how Redux can start pretending otherwise, even leaving aside the problematic brand name (a barrier that Coca-Cola, a caffeinated soft drink that actually used to contain cocaine, has managed to overcome). The solution is clear: Redux should ask the FDA to approve Cocaine as a new drug intended for the treatment of sluggishness and depression.

[Thanks to Allen St. Pierre for the tip.]

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  1. Redux should ask the FDA to approve Cocaine as a new drug intended for the treatment of sluggishness and depression.

    Then, after ten or fifteen years, they’ll be able sell canned energy drinks by prescription only.

  2. The Daily Show interview with the maker of this stuff was priceless.

    The grimace on his face when he tasted it for the camera…He refused to drink a second can, iirc.

  3. What if they re-branded to Cocaine-ola?

  4. Or “Cocainish”? Maybe “Blow” would be ok.

  5. I would like the government to stay out of this. Let the market take care of it.

    I have tasted it, it burns like you are swallowing gasoline, but makes you really hyper.

    I am sticking to monster, but +10000 respect to the owner of the company for naming an energy drink Cocaine.

  6. At least we can be confident that Coca-Cola and whoever makes Red Bull had no hand in this, because government is pure and will not let itself be manipulated by wealthy corporations to squash small competitors.

  7. Since there’s no cocaine in it, this is cut and dried fraud.

  8. Not to mention the civil lawsuit potential when 1000s of drug dealers sue them for diluting the cocaine brand

  9. I think the taste of that nasty liquid should be enough to stop sales. I had one once and they try to reproduce the numb throat and aftertaste effects of doing a line of the white powder from which it takes its name. In short: not good, but the free market should take care of this one.

  10. Now cocaine comes in a delicious new shake!

    Hello, my name is Tyrone Biggums. Sometimes in the pursuit of crack, it leaves me tired and depleted. Now cocaine comes in a delicious shake! (holds up a can of Red Balls) Red Balls! It gives me waaaaaays! (takes a drink from the can) Ah. Humuna-HUMUNA-HUMUNA-HUMUNA-HUMUNA-HUMUNA!

  11. Don’t worry everyone…

    no matter what the FDA says, the Chicago city council is already looking into banning the sale of this hideous product. That should get the domino effect going (suck it NYC!!)

    And in case anyone was wondering, here is a partial list of some of things the Chicago has banned in recent years (Courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times):

    ? “Pot suckers” — marijuana-flavored candy

    ? Smoking in many indoor locations (bars have until 2008 to comply)

    ? Using cell phones without hands-free device while driving

    ? BB-guns and replica guns that shoot pellets

    ? Homing pigeons in homes

    ? “For Sale” signs on cars parked in street

    ? Noise “above a conversational level” from 100 feet away

    ? Proposed: trans fat

  12. Speaking of the Sun-Times. Check out today’s editorial that came out against banning the product in Chicago. They don’t actually come out against the ban until the last paragraph, and even then they don’t really explain why the ban “probably goes too far”. All in all a rather poor editorial against banning, that reads like it would do most likely make people more sympathetic to the ban.

  13. -1000000000 points for not mentioning FOIE GRAS.

    hrumph.

    (and not to mention that they’re trying to get the fucking olympics here. fuckme. makes me so fucking mad. hate the olympics almost as much as I hate …. um…. something else.)

  14. -1000000000 points for not mentioning FOIE GRAS.

    Damnit…I didn’t even notice that it was missing

    and not to mention that they’re trying to get the fucking olympics here. fuckme. makes me so fucking mad. hate the olympics almost as much as I hate …. um…. something else.

    I’m with you Moose! Last fucking thing I want is Chicago to host the Olympics.

    Let LA have them. We don’t need the hassle or the financial trouble.

  15. “The click-polls I’ve seen and the conversations I’ve heard suggest that Chicagoans are strongly behind this effort, ”

    so sayeth Eric Zorn…
    he does so…
    hier

    Flying spaghetti monster, I hope not.

  16. Dave Chappelle had one of the least funny tv shows ever. Give me Carlos Mencia every day of the week.

    I live for the Olympics. I cannot understand why someone would not want all that hassle planted in their own backyard. The crowds of rubes from around the world would be a joy to host. That said, my son will be the perfect age to actually be excited about the games. For his sake, I kinda hope we don’t get them.

  17. Highnumber ruins it all with him forgetting that today isn’t opposite day, and none.

    jeez.

  18. and not to mention that they’re trying to get the fucking olympics here.

    When Chicago loses the Olympics to LA tomorrow, and the windbag politicos wonder “why”, we can send them the list of banned items/activities and I’m sure it’ll go right over their heads.

  19. THIS JUST IN!

    batin’ has now been zoned out of burt natarus’ ward.

  20. …about the benefits of inositol…

    isn’t inositol the active ingredient in most legislators?

  21. GOOD THING THERE ARE NO GOOD PICS OF MR. STEVEN CRANE DRESSED AS A TOREADOR

  22. There aren’t?
    Where aren’t they?
    I wouldn’t want to post those on the internet myself.

  23. d’oh. didn’t mean to say that that there are some, rather!

    now instead of opposite
    a backwards haiku
    challenges little gray cells

  24. I came up with a new idea for Redux beverages.

    They could improve the flavor of their drink (put out three flavors, cherry, orange, and grape) and call it ICE.

    Make some commercials for it
    “Hey kids! feeling tired? Slam some ICE!!!”

    (Guy chugs the whole bottle then the background freezes and a hot woman walks over)

    “You’ll be up all night!!!”

  25. Don’t even think of making any form of “alternative to perscription medicine” the FDA will clean your ass out!

  26. Since when is making something taste good, marketing to kids, thats bullshit! I like chocolate, cherry and orange, EVERYONE does. Like these Pot Suckers, they are marketed to stoners, not little kids, little kids are fucking poor, why the hell would we market to them! I don’t remember half of the shit I ate when I was a kid, I sure as hell don’t buy the stuff now. We all like things that taste good… duh.

  27. Most coherent comment of the day award to you, Frank Stevens III.
    Congratulations!

  28. “`Redux should ask the FDA to approve Cocaine as a new drug intended for the treatment of sluggishness and depression.’

    “Then, after ten or fifteen years, they’ll be able sell canned energy drinks by prescription only.”

    But that’ll make them a lot more money, won’t it?

    Meanwhile, FDA’s guidance on street drug alternatives looks like it might’ve come out, along with the seizure of some khat tea leaves (which took place with the same suspicious timing), with a suitable time lag as necessary for a guidance document, to make FDA’s opinion that tobacco products were medical devices look consistent. Up until the 1990s, and in most respects still, FDA had treated recreational psychoactives as beyond their jurisdiction. Notice that illegal purveyors of marijuana & heroin are never charged with violation of the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act? Usually they try to add whatever charges they can, but they’ve never asserted that such products are, statutorily speaking, “drugs”.

    Of course a guidance is just that. It doesn’t carry any legal weight, it’s just FDA’s opinion. It’s just that most people don’t want to litigate with FDA. When you do litigate these jurisdiction quesions with them, usually FDA gets beat, but nobody with much at stake wants FDA as an adversary, so they don’t litigate.

  29. this just in

    Dildos are still illegal in Alabama.

  30. (a barrier that Coca-Cola, a caffeinated soft drink that actually used to contain cocaine, has managed to overcome)

    it may not contain cocaine anymore but Coca-Cola still contains an extract from the coca plant for flavor. “New Coke” was its failed attempt at removing this last link to its sordid past.

  31. Fox News did a story on this Cocaine energy drink and marijuana-flavored candy. Perhaps I missed the story, but Fox News reported that the marijuana flavored candy was candy-flavored marijuana. There’s a difference, right? Fox, those crazy truth benders.

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