FDA censor forces Cocaine beverage rebrand

Redux, the Nevada-based manufacturer of the controversial Cocaine Energy Drink, has responded to a US Food and Drug Administration warning, as well as threatened bans in Texas, Connecticut and Illinois, by voluntarily withdrawing the product from the market. The FDA had accused the drink of being "a new drug and as such cannot be sold without FDA approval" in an April letter telling the beverage maker to remove the name Cocaine and other suggestive marketing.

Redux senior partner and founder James Kirby said his company intended to fight to bring Cocaine back to market, but in the meantime Redux would release a product using identical ingredients under the name, 'Censored' to "conform to FDA requests." Censored, which, like Cocaine, would be marketed as a dietary supplement, will be on shelves within weeks, he said.

"We love the Censored name because it has the same rebellious and fun spirit that our original name did," said Kirby. "Redux intends to challenge the FDA allegations, but until such time as Redux wins that challenge, Cocaine Energy Drink…will not be available for sale in the United States under that name."

Cocaine contained the caffeine equivalent of 3.5 regular cups of coffee, as well as dextrose, guarana, the amino acid taurine and a vitamin cocktail and was marketed as 'the legal alternative,' a direct reference to the illegal status of its namesake narcotic. Other claims included 'Speed in a Can,' 'Liquid Cocaine' and 'Cocaine — Instant Rush.'

Redux made the withdrawal public by posting a notice: 'RIP Cocaine Energy Drink: Sept. 2006 - May 2007' on its official website, sparking an avalanche of protest from its predominantly under-25 market on its alternative Myspace site.

Kirby queried how a perfume could bear a name like Opium and not be challenged, but Daniel Fabricant, PhD, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Washington DC-based Natural Products Association, said he doubted it was an argument that would stand up. "I heard their defence and am not sure it applies, since the law states labelling be truthful and not misleading. By that alone, you cannot name a food product after an illicit drug. A perfume and a drug clearly have a different intent. Illicit drugs and foods ultimately end up inside the body. While the marketing may have been an issue and drawn additional attention, the central issue is the product's name and its intended use."

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