WASHINGTON -- A "David-and-Goliath" scenario, an Army installation commander standing up to a multi-billion-dollar industry over the deaths of three of his Soldiers, has borne fruit in a national Food and Drug Administration warning and the drug maker's decision to stop production of a controversial dietary supplement. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, commander of Fort Bliss, Texas, and the 1st Armored Division, lauded USPlabs's announcement that it would stop production of Jack3d. The supplement contains dimethylamylamine, or DMAA, a stimulant popular among bodybuilders and dieters that the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, recently linked to elevated blood pressure and heart attacks. Pittard's crusade against the supplement began in 2011, when two Fort Bliss Soldiers, Pfc. Michael Sparling and Sgt. Demekia Cola, died of heart failure during physical training. Their autopsies reviewed that DMAA use was a contributing factor in their deaths. In July 2012, another Fort Bliss Soldier, Pfc. David Artis, died of heart stroke during physical fitness training. His death also was linked to DMAA use.
Pittard, who instituted a campaign to reduce suicides and other preventable deaths on arrival at Fort Bliss, immediately demanded that products containing DMAA be removed from the shelves of a commercial vitamin store outlet on the post. It was an unpopular move, he told reporters April 18, raising the ire of the Fort Bliss community, questions from some Army leaders, and criticism from manufacturers of supplemental products. "But regardless, we stood firm in the face of that criticism," Pittard said. "We felt it was the right thing to do for our Soldiers." The pushback, he said, actually strengthened the resolve at Fort Bliss to take the fight beyond the installation's gates. Partnering with the Consortium for Health and Military Performance and the Pentagon's Department of Military and Emergency Medicine, Pittard and his staff set their eye on eradicating DMAA products across not only the Army, but also the entire Defense Department. This unified campaign spurred the Army to ban supplements containing DMAA from all installations in March 2012. Four months later, the Defense Department followed suit, banning them from all U.S. installations. In the next promising development, the FDA issued an advisory warning consumers not to buy dietary supplements containing DMAA. But the biggest victory, Pittard said, was the decision by USPlabs, the manufacturer of Jack3d, to stop using DMAA in its products. "Yesterday's action by USPlabs really in many ways vindicates those on Fort Bliss who fought so hard and fought the supplement and billion-dollar drug industry on this issue," he said. Pittard expressed thanks to the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and Army and DOD leadership for supporting the effort. He acknowledged that it took courage to collectively stand up to powerful drug companies and others who resisted their efforts. "And we believe this will save countless lives in the future," he said.