'Pineapple Express' Kronic recalled

10:58, Jun 30 2011

An importer and a supplier of a popular brand of synthetic cannabis recalled today both say the product had been "contaminated" by a prescription drug without their knowledge.

The Ministry of Health has order retailers to stop selling Kronic Pineapple Express because it contains the anti-anxiety medication phenazepam.

The brand's importer, Stargate Operations, said it was not aware the compounds used to produce Pineapple Express contained the drug. If it had the product would not have been imported, the company said in a statement.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said phenazepam was an anti-anxiety and anti-convulsion drug. It could be harmful to people with a mental health condition or on other medications, as well as to pregnant women and children. Its effects were more pronounced when combined with alcohol.

Stargate had launched an investigation to find out how the contamination happened and said it was arranging testing of all other Kronic brands at its own expense.

Any other contaminated brands would be recalled and destroyed, it said.

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Stargate was also establishing a chemical testing process to test imported compounds for purity.

The overseas supplier, Lightyears Ahead, said in its statement that the amount of phenazepam found was very small, 300 parts per million.

"Kronic Pineapple Express is not intended to contain, and Lightyears was not aware that it contain, phenazepam."

It immediately withdrew Kronic Pineapple Express from at the request of the ministry, it said.

The company said it would fully co-operate with ministry requests and would carry out its own investigation into the "contamination".

Dunne said  Pineapple Express was now illegal to buy, sell, use or possess without a doctor's prescription because of the contamination.

The restriction applied to retailers, wholesalers, and any member of the public who bought the product, he said.

The discovery of the medicine confirmed the dangers of suppliers putting unregulated drugs on the market when their safety was unproven, Dunne said.

"This clearly shows the worth of the Government's moves to change the onus of proof so producers and suppliers of these products need to prove they are safe before they can sell them."

Currently authorities had to prove such products were unsafe before they could be taken off the market.

Dunne said the company that supplied the product, Lightyears Ahead, would be officially informed it was required to recall Pineapple Express from retailers immediately.

The Ministry would conduct further investigations before making any decision on a possible prosecution, he said. A similar product was also being investigated and further action might be taken shortly.

In the next few weeks the Government will place restrictions on the sale and marketing of products such as those containing synthetic cannabinoids in proposed amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Smokefree legislation means it is already illegal to sell these products to those under 18.

Environmental Science and Research (ESR) is currently testing about 40 synthetic cannabinoids products.

- with NZPA

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