It’s one thing when an herbal supplement doesn’t contain all of the active ingredients listed on the label — which happens more often than consumers realize, according to a recent Clarkson University study — because these supplements rarely guarantee results anyway, and the herbs tend to have minimal side effects (if any at all). In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t even require herbal supplements to be tested and approved before hitting the shelves.
However, it’s an entirely different matter when a business buys cheap herbal drugs from Mexico, rips off the labels, and sells them online under a different American name to American consumers — which is exactly what Stanley Brower, the owner of dietary supplement business Brower Enterprises, has been caught doing.
According to South Dakota newspaper The Daily Press, Brower bought up the Mexican pain-relieving supplement “Reumofan Plus” — which was sold in the U.S. up until the FDA and Mexican health officials issued recalls on the drug in 2012 — and sold it under the name “WOW” on at least two different websites between July and December 2012.
The recall was issued due to findings that the “100% natural” supplement actually contained three prescription drugs, including methocarbomal (a muscle relaxer) and dexamethasone (an anti-inflammatory drug), which can have life-threatening side effects when taken with certain other prescriptions. These side effects include severe bleeding, stroke, and death.
The problem with Brower’s rebranding scheme wasn’t necessarily that he sold Reumofan Plus, since the official warning was released around the time of the sales. The problem was that people weren’t aware that they were actually consuming Reumofan Plus when they purchased WOW, and therefore were not aware of its side effects. Similar to online pharmacies, which sell drugs that are rarely approved by the FDA, Brower’s business ended up causing quite a disaster with just 220 bottles.
Brower has been charged with nine counts of introducing a misbranded drug into the market with intent to defraud, and five counts of receipt and offered delivery of a misbranded drug. The 68-year-old business owner (yes, his business is still somehow running) has plead not guilty to all charges, and is scheduled to appear in court sometime in April.
Both Brower and his attorney have declined to comment on the charges.