FDA warns companies selling illegal, unapproved kratom products marketed for opioid cessation, pain treatment and other medical uses
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued warning letters to three marketers and distributors of kratom products – Front Range Kratom of Aurora, Colorado; Kratom Spot of Irvine, California and Revibe, Inc., of Kansas City, Missouri – for illegally selling unapproved kratom-containing drug products with unproven claims about their ability to help in the treatment of opioid addiction and withdrawal. The companies also make claims about treating pain, as well as other medical conditions like lowering blood pressure, treating cancer and reducing neuron damage caused by strokes.
“Despite our warnings that no kratom product is safe, we continue to find companies selling kratom and doing so with deceptive medical claims for which there’s no reliable scientific proof to support their use,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. “As we work to combat the opioid epidemic, we cannot allow unscrupulous vendors to take advantage of consumers by selling products with unsubstantiated claims that they can treat opioid addiction. Far from treating addiction, we’ve determined that kratom is an opioid analogue that may actually contribute to the opioid epidemic and puts patients at risk of serious side effects. If people believe that the active ingredients in kratom have drug-like effects that can treat pain or addiction, then the FDA is open to reviewing that data under our new drug approval process. In the meantime, I promised earlier this year that the FDA would step up our actions against unapproved and unsafe products that are being deceptively marketed for the treatment of opioid addiction and withdrawal symptoms. At the same time, we also promised to make the approval process more efficient for novel, safe and effective medical treatments aimed at the treatment of addiction; and to help more people suffering from addiction get access to approved therapies. In fulfilling these commitments, we’ll continue to take enforcement actions against unscrupulous products to protect the public health.”
The FDA continues to warn consumers not to use Mitragyna speciosa, commonly known as kratom, a plant which grows naturally in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. The FDA is concerned that kratom, which affects the same opioid brain receptors as morphine, appears to have properties that expose users to the risks of addiction, abuse and dependence. There are no FDA-approved uses for kratom, and the agency has received concerning reports about the safety of kratom.
The FDA is actively evaluating all available scientific information on this issue and continues to warn consumers not to use any products labeled as containing the botanical substance kratom or its psychoactive compounds, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. The FDA encourages more research to better understand kratom’s safety profile, including the use of kratom combined with other drugs.
The companies receiving warning letters use websites where they take orders for kratom products or they use social media to make unproven claims about the ability of their kratom drug products to cure, treat, or prevent a disease, which is against the law. Examples of claims being made by these companies include:
- “Along with helping drug addiction, the health benefits of kratom leaves include their ability to lower blood pressure, relieve pain, boost metabolism, increase sexual energy, improve the immune system, prevent diabetes, ease anxiety, eliminate stress, and induce healthy sleep.”
- “The mood elevation qualities of kratom reduces opiate withdrawal effects.”
- “Kratom, like any other pain killer, relieves temporary or even chronic pain.”
- “This plant can relieve headaches, vascular pain, arthritic pain, muscle pain among others.”
- “Kratom can be used as a remedy for stroke-related ailments and condition as it is a powerful antioxidant that works to reduce neuron damage.”
- “It can . . . help in lowering blood pressure.”
- “Kratom is also said to have elements that control blood sugar level in the body for diabetic patients.”
- “It is said, that kratom is very effective against cancer.”
Health fraud scams like these can pose serious health risks. These products have not been demonstrated to be safe or effective and may keep some patients from seeking appropriate, FDA-approved therapies. Selling these unapproved products with claims that they can treat opioid addiction and withdrawal and treat other serious medical conditions is a violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
Reducing the number of Americans who are addicted to opioids and cutting the rate of new addiction is one of the FDA’s highest priorities. This work includes promoting more widespread innovation and access to opioid addiction treatments for the more than 2 million of Americans with an opioid use disorder. The FDA is taking new steps to make safe and effective medication assisted treatments (MAT) available to those who suffer from opioid use disorder and to reduce the stigma that is sometimes associated with use of these therapies. Using products with unsubstantiated claims may prevent those addicted to opioids from seeking treatments that have been demonstrated to be safe and effective. Reliance on products with unsubstantiated claims may delay their path to recovery and put them at greater risk of addiction, overdose and death. In fact, patients receiving FDA-approved medication-assisted treatment cut their risk of death in half, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The warning letters included more than 65 kratom products. Some of these products include:
Front Range Kratom:
- “Maeng Da Red Vein Powder”
- “Maeng Da White Vein Capsules”
- “Liquid Kratom Red Maeng Da Enhanced Pain Formulation”
- “Bali White Vein Kratom Powder”
- “Bali Green Vein Powder”
- “Maeng Da White Energizing Formula”
- “Red Thai Kratom Powder”
- “Indo White Vein Kratom Powder”
- “Borneo White Vein Kratom Powder”
- “Green Malay Kratom Powder”
- “Super Green Indo Kratom Capsules”
- “Ultra Enhanced Malay Kratom Powder”
- “Kratom Extract 8x Kratom Powder”
- “50x Black Diamond Extract”
- “Green Horn Kratom”
- “Green Indo”
- “Green Sumatra,” “Lucky 7”
- “Red Borneo”
- “Super Elephant”
- “White Sumatra”
- “Yellow Vietnam Kratom”
The FDA requested responses from each of the companies within 15 working days. The companies are directed to inform the agency of the specific actions taken to address each of the agency’s concerns. The warning letters also state that failure to correct violations may result in law enforcement action such as seizure or injunction.
Previous FDA testing also confirmed salmonella contamination in kratom productsdistributed by Revibe. On March 26, 2018, the FDA contacted Revibe regarding a recall of all Revibe kratom containing products that may be contaminated with salmonella. On April 3, 2018, the agency oversaw the destruction of products at Revibe’s facility, but, as of April 19, 2018, the company has not provided the FDA information to confirm that they have recalled the products it distributed. The FDA reminds consumers of the risks and urges them not to use these or any other kratom products.
Health care professionals and consumers are encouraged to report any adverse events related to these products to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program. To file a report, use the MedWatch Online Voluntary Reporting Form. The completed form can be submitted online or via fax to 800-FDA-0178.
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, promotes and protects the public health by, among other things, assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.