A legal cocaine? That is what US-based Redux Beverages said it would be marketing. Well, only it was not going to be the banned drug, but merely an energy drink.
In September last year it announced the launch of Cocaine, describing it as a "legal alternative" to the illegal drug.
Jamey Kirby, the drink's inventor, said the name for the drink - Cocaine - came to him during a brainstorming session at 1 o'clock in the morning.
"It's an energy drink, and it's a fun name," said Kirby. "As soon as people look at the can, they smile."
Kirby said Redux wanted to make a beverage that would send a sensation to the mouth. He describes Cocaine, the new beverage, as a "fruity, atomic fireball" drink.
The 8.4 fluid ounce energy booster has no actual cocaine in it, but it does contain 280 milligrams of caffeine.
The beverage was initially marketed to give a person a "high" coupled with a tingly euphoric feeling within five minutes of drinking it. That initial boost is followed 15 minutes later by an energy buzz that will last five to six hours, according to the company.
Kirby claims Cocaine is "350 percent stronger than Red Bull" but that people do not experience the "sugar crash" or jitters that he says some of the other energy drinks can produce.
On the drink's Web site, www.DrinkCocaine.com, it posts a variety of alcohol and Cocaine combinations.
The drink contains over 1,100 milligrams of caffeine, slightly more than a large Starbucks coffee, according to the company, and among the highest in the category.
It also contains taurine, an amino acid, and guarana, a stimulant from a South American plant, as well as vitamins and other ingredients.
The makers pitched it as "the legal alternative" to compete in a rapidly growing market for energy drinks worth more than 3.5 billion dollars in the United States alone.
Redux claimed the drink had made inroads by taking market share from beverages including Red Bull, RockStar and Monster, which also are loaded with caffeine and other stimulants.
But legal troubles for the firm began on April 4, when the FDA issued a warning to Redux that it considered the drink illegal, saying it was being marketed as an alternative to an illegal street drug and making claims to treat or cure disease.
For the Redux states, among other things, one of the ingredients, Inositol, reduces cholesterol in the blood; it helps prevent hardening of the arteries, and may protect nerve fibers from excess glucose damage. Inositol has a natural calming effect and may be used in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder without the side effects of prescription medications."
FDA said it had become aware of the proliferation of various diet supplement products that are being manufactured, marketed, or distributed as alternatives to illicit street drugs. Street drug alternatives are not intended to supplement the diet, it said.
Listing out the various violations of the law, the agency went on to warn, " If you do not immediately correct them, you may be subject to enforcement action against you without further notice. The Act provides for the seizure of illegal products and for an injunction against the manufacturer and distributors of illegal products.
Individuals and businesses that violate the Act may also be subject to criminal prosecution."
In such a backdrop the company said it was changing the name.
Last week , Clegg Ivey, a partner in Redux Beverages , said, "Of course, we intended for Cocaine energy drink to be a legal alternative the same way that celibacy is an alternative to premarital sex," Ivey said. "It's not the same thing and no one thinks it is. Our product doesn't have any cocaine in it. No one thinks that it does. We think it is most likely legal in the United States to ship our product."
He noted that even though the the FDA did not order the company to stop marketing the drink, officials were concerned about possible legal action.
"What we would like to do is continue to fight to keep the name because it's clearly the name that's the problem," Ivey said. "What we can't do is distribute our product when regulators in the states and the FDA are saying that if you do this, you could go to jail."
Attorneys general in Connecticut and Illinois recently announced that Redux had agreed to stop marketing Cocaine in those states, while a judge in Texas has halted distribution there.
"Our goal is to literally flush Cocaine down the drain across the nation," said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who announced the company's agreement with his state Monday. "Our main complaint about Cocaine is its name and marketing strategy seeking to glorify illegal drug use and exploit the allure of marketing 'Speed in a Can,' as it called the product."