DMAA and Drug Marketing

The internet like many forms of media has long held the power to both inform and misinform us, from wartime propaganda to state controlled television; the most recent case has been a frenzy of talk in the online bodybuilding world of Health Canada’s rumoured banning of a substance known as Dimethylamylamine (DMAA) or “dim.” to some. DMAA is a pre-workout energy booster with a chemical structure that is similar to caffeine only much more powerful.

While the substance has adverse health effects such as headaches, nausea and sometimes even a stroke, there has been no public announcement by Health Canada, or any other Canadian regulatory body to this effect. In fact, there has been no coverage of this in any of the traditional news channels.

So if this rumour is untrue, why is it that every gym-enthusiast as far apart as the USA and South Africa are convinced that Canada has banned this? We could guess some of it from the outset; but first we should find out, where did this rumour begin?

Anonymous users have been posting information about DMAA leaving the stores in Canada since as early as February online searches have revealed

A user, terminal_stasis seems to have begun the rumour online; the post headlined “Impending removal of jack3D from Canadian market place?” A brief description follows of a local fitness shop informing customers that Health Canada will be banning the substance.

People begin to theorise that banning in their own country may also happen, advising each other to stock up on products containing the substance before it is too late; in the months that followed this first mention dozens of other posts appeared in various online forums dedicated to users of this supplement.

Do all these posts by different users result from the information provided by one post, or did the information start from the supplement suppliers, via fitness intermediaries?

A month prior in January of 2011, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned DMAA for professional sports; making it seem probably that an outright ban could happen in some countries.

The WADA may have had several reasons for banning one reason may be its interference in normal drug testing for amphetamines. Researchers from the U.S. army division of forensic toxicology wrote in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, on the high 92.3% of false-positive samples related to DMAA.

In light of this information, the decision of the WADA seems to be more precautionary in nature than implying any ill effects of DMAA.

Canadian based still has Jack3D in stock, and it still contains DMAA. Ephedrine recently disappeared from the shelves in Canada, a product operating in the same market as DMAA; a few months later the same product was back under a different name with the formula altered slightly.

In this case, the manufacturers did not stop producing, and they have not changed the formula or the packaging; there is no mention of DMAA under any of its many names on the Health Canada website and it is clearly still in stock through certain vendors.

This leads us to conclusion number one, that no regulating body here in Canada has any intention to ban DMAA until such a time as sufficient investigation is finished.

If Health Canada is not banning DMAA nor has any plans to do so, then why would anybody believe that they were? Where could such information start?

Conclusion number two: marketers are evil bastards.

Imagine you are a marketing director sitting in your plush office; for years, you have been releasing products into the fitness world under imaginative new names in ever-brighter packaging. Every now and then, you bring out what is actually a new product, but the true marketing guru rarely does this in order to save on research and new product development (R&D) costs.

A problem that emerges when marketers release so many copies of the same product into the market is that they blend. There needs to be a way of drawing special attention to your product over the others. Either you need to make it look good, or you need to make it look so bad that it becomes ‘cool’ or customers begin to consider it ‘hard-core’.

You have dug yourself a bit of a hole here; in order to remain the market leader; you must constantly need to release new products. Buyers must choose from an ever growing and ever more confusing array of products; due to an industry that is always rebranding, repositioning, and releasing new products into the market.

Every time you release a new product into the market, in the hopes of increasing your profit, you are digging yourself deeper into that metaphorical hole. Each product that succeeds the original product requires an increase in effort and more and more imaginative marketing efforts to promote it.

It’s all a gimmick; supplement producers send information down the supply chain stating that Health Canada, or some other prominent organization, is about to ban the product.

Retailers get scared and start to push the product; not wanting to be stuck with a surplus of stock that cannot be.

In order to do this, retailers will pass on the information to customers who buy the product already in order to push the product off the shelves and reduce their risk. The retailers could of course also be in on the deal; regardless, the result is not good for the end user.

The customer buys more than he or she needs or more than the safe limit for one person. What DMAA’s pushers might have intended only to affect sales in a certain region soon blows up and has global consequences.

As with most rumours, by the time that the end user receives this information by their trusted local fitness shop, it has taken on the status of some kind of national secret, leaked right from the top.

Then it hits the internet. What the source of this information might have intended for an isolated community in the USA, who do not even know where Canada is let alone what Health Canada is; the information quickly spreads itself online.

Hot information like this gets people talking; a giant government body moving against a popular product is always good meat for the rumour mill.

The information spreads itself despite not being true, it appears that nobody at any point in the chain ever stops to check the information by even so much as googling it.

Conclusion number three: nobody ever checked his or her facts.

Had anybody done an investigation on this he/she might have arrived at another substance: which is highly controlled, spelt similarly, and only a slightly shorter word.

Dimethylamine, and not Dimethylamylamine (DMAA), is a strictly controlled flammable gas, used in the creation of solvents (amongst various uses); and was once used in cosmetics, but is now banned for such uses.

Anybody who found information about Dimethylamine during research and did not take the time to look up what Dimethylamine actually is; could have mistaken it for DMAA, and accidentally spread misinformation online.

Conclusion number four: Health Canada has not banned DMAA…

Should consumers be more aware when businesses radically repackage a product and sell it as new? Should information coming from anybody with a profit motive ever be believed? These are questions that each of us has to answer until such a time as we have rid ourselves of such business practices.

At the time of publishing this Health Canada had not made any official statement on DMAA under any of it’s names nor replied to requests for further information on this issue.

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