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CDC concerned with spike in illnesses linked to some tianeptine products

WHITE OAK, MD - JULY 20: A sign for the Food And Drug Administration is seen outside of the headquarters on July 20, 2020 in White Oak, Maryland. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

The CDC issued a warning on Thursday regarding a notable increase in illnesses linked to products containing the drug tianeptine. In New Jersey, between June and November 2023, there were 20 reported cases of issues related to tianeptine, affecting 17 individuals. This surge was described as unusual compared to the typical baseline of two or fewer annual exposure calls to poison control.

Among the affected individuals, around 14 reported using tianeptine from Neptune’s Fix, a flavored elixir shot. Recently, Neptune Resources recalled this product due to contamination with the antidepressant drug tianeptine. The recall encompassed Fix Elixir, Fix Extra Strength Elixir, and Fix Tablets.

George Karavetsos, a former director of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, referred to tianeptine as “gas station heroin” due to companies making unproven claims about its benefits, including improving brain function and treating various conditions. Tianeptine abuse has become a concerning trend, leading to overdoses, coma, and even fatalities.

The FDA has received reports of severe adverse events associated with Neptune‘s Fix products, including seizures, loss of consciousness, and death. The agency is actively investigating these reports in collaboration with local and state health departments, highlighting potential life-threatening interactions with other medications.

The CDC notes that tianeptine is readily available in elixir formulations online or at gas stations and convenience stores. In response to multiple reports of serious medical injuries, the FDA, in January, urged retailers, including convenience stores and gas stations, to halt the sale of Neptune’s Fix and other products containing tianeptine. This situation underscores the need for public awareness regarding the risks associated with such products.

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