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FDA: 'Cocaine' energy drink is marketed illegally

Thursday, April 12, 2007

WASHINGTON -- Cocaine is a drug, federal health officials say.

So what's the news?

This Cocaine is an energy drink produced by a Las Vegas company. It contains no actual cocaine, but is being marketed as "The Legal Alternative" to the illegal drug, according to its Web site. Its logo appears to be spelled out in a white powder that resembles the drug.

The Food and Drug Administration said Redux Beverages LLC is illegally marketing the drink as both a street drug alternative and a dietary supplement, according to a warning letter dated April 4 but publicly released Wednesday. The FDA cites as evidence the drink's own labeling and Web site, which include the statements "Speed in a Can," "Liquid Cocaine" and "Cocaine -- Instant Rush," according to the letter.

Health claims

In addition, dietary supplements cannot carry claims to prevent or treat a disease -- something only drugs can do, according to the letter. The Cocaine Web site lists an ingredient called inositol and says it reduces cholesterol and helps prevent hardening of the arteries, among other health claims, the FDA said.

"Your product, Cocaine, is a drug," the three-page letter reads in part. It's also a new drug and as such cannot be sold without FDA approval. In addition, the FDA said the product is mislabeled since it doesn't include "adequate directions for its intended uses."

"Obviously, we're not a drug. We pretty much have the identical ingredients of every other energy drink out there," said Hannah Kirby, managing partner of the beverage company.

Kirby said company attorneys already were in discussions with the FDA about how to comply with federal law. And the company's begun revising its Web site and other marketing materials, she added.

The FDA said it inspected the company Feb. 14 and reviewed the product's Web site, www.drinkcocaine.com. The agency said it's aware of a proliferation of dietary supplement products being touted as alternatives to illegal street drugs.

The FDA gave the company has 15 days to notify the agency of its plans to correct the violations of federal law. Otherwise, it can face seizure of its products, injunctions and possible criminal prosecution.

"Our take on it is we are naive. Everything that we do in terms of marketing of the products, on to all the various marketing taglines, is intended to be tongue-in-cheek," Kirby said.

Cocaine was one of roughly 500 energy drinks launched worldwide last year, capitalizing on the craze for the typically sugar- and caffeine-laden beverages. Entries on Cocaine's own MySpace.com page suggest the drink has thousands of fans, many of them teens.

Kirby and her husband James founded Redux Beverages last year. They chose "Cocaine" to differentiate their product.

"We knew it would be controversial, we knew it would make us stick out. That was the idea," Hannah Kirby said.

An opposition to James Kirby's year-old attempt to trademark "cocaine" is now pending at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark office.


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