New Date Rape Prevention Tools Exist—But the FDA Is Blocking Their Development and Sale

Scotch and WaterThree innovative products, but only one has the official go-ahead. Why can’t the government get out of the way and let women protect themselves?

This spring, a group of four engineering students at North Carolina State University announced they had developed a fingernail polish that changes color when it comes into contact with drugs like Rohypnol (“roofies”), Xanax, and GHB, which rapists commonly put into women’s drinks. They named the company Undercover Colors, and claim to be “the first fashion company empowering women to prevent sexual assault.” The woman just dips her finger slyly into her drink as if to stir it, and if her fingernail changes color, she has just avoided getting drugged—or worse.

Besides the nail polish, an Israeli team working at Tel Aviv University has proposed a color-changing swizzle stick that would indicate if GHB, Rohypnol, or ketamine were present—it’s a variation on the theme, only this time you don’t have to stir your drink with a finger. The swizzle stick, according to the manufacturer, is “not in stock,” which is a quiet way of saying that the FDA is requiring both products to undergo FDA pre-approval. The government is concerned that chemicals from the nail polish and the swizzle stick could possibly leach into the drink.

One alternative—and the only similar product that is currently on the market—is a coaster that will change color in the presence of GHB or ketamine. The company says most people slosh their drinks a little, but even if you’re a neatnik, you can easily drip some liquid onto the coaster with a finger or a straw.

We think all three products are problematic. With the coaster, you have to spill enough of your drink on it to get a reading—something that can’t be done surreptitiously. On top of that, the pH of certain drinks interferes with the chemical reaction on the test strip, and the coaster isn’t able to test for Rohypnol—only GHB and “Special K.” And of course we don’t like the idea of potentially coming in contact with the chemicals from the other products, even though the risk appears pretty small. What is needed is a new product—perhaps a different type of swizzle stick—that not only IDs the date rape drugs without leaching but might also detect too much alcohol.

Unfortunately, because of the FDA’s stance on the issue, it’s clear that no one will try to develop this much-needed product. The agency should get out of the way so that scientists and entrepreneurs can help solve the problem of date rape and provide desperately needed protections. The coaster is better than nothing—but the FDA shouldn’t make it the only option. It’s not practical and doesn’t really do the job.

This is not the first time bureaucratic FDA regulations completely lacking in common sense have slowed down innovation:

  • FDA requirements to review and approve medical smartphone applications threaten to end critical innovation in that area.
  • As we reported last month, requiring expensive and complicated Investigational New Drug applications just to do scientific studies on the ability of foods and supplements to help make you healthy will stifle promising new research.
  • The agency’s proposed guidance on laboratory-developed tests would suppress innovative, promising, and cost-effective lab testing, such as personalized blood tests with same-day results, astounding accuracy rates, and very low cost.
  • FDA’s proposed rules for compounding will threaten many compounded medications, and access to these products for in-office use are not allowed (even though this is completely contrary to the intention of Congress when the legislation was passed).
  • The most recent version of the agency’s draft guidance for New Dietary Ingredients would mean that many new and innovative supplements may be taken off the market, or might never reach the marketplace in the first place.

As we have said many times, the US Food and Drug Administration is broken. It needs to be reformed from the ground up.

So which does one choose? Protection from date rape, or the possible ingestion of chemicals? The point is, women should not have to choose—and the FDA should stop putting the brakes on cutting-edge research with real-world benefits.


  1. The FDA should work tirelessly to find and implement a tool for women to avoid being “mickied”.
    The FDA should also completely ban Rohypnol, GHB and “Special K”; instead of siding with drug manufacturers for profit.

  2. The FDA is being ridiculous. Require a statement that testing has not been done, and then let people make an informed decision.

  3. And it is okay to allow arsenic in Chicken. Of all the poisons the FDA allow in Our food they are worried about trace chemical issue. FDA is Pathetic!

  4. I ahve suffered from date rape, in an occurrence that ended in a cabin in the woods with three men and another woman, who didn’t tell me until years later what had occurred. Slowly the memories to come back. It’s terrible! and I would be very glad to have fingernail polish that I could offer to my nieces and to friends, and to explain exactly how dreadful it is to have hour of your life highjacked for someone else’s idea of pleasure, which can leave you in terrible circumstances and no memory of what has happened.

  5. FDA allows poisonous GMO products by default, until some harm is clearly proven. Why can’t they allow similar latitude for consumers to choose on these date rape detection materials, until some harm is clearly proven. How much harm is happening now, because these good ideas are kept unavailable?

  6. The first question is…just who does the FDA work for???Anyone think it would be “us”, the general populace?

  7. Women desperately need ways to protect themselves against date rape. I don’t understand the roadblocks to these new products other than the FDA does not operate above board and requires bribes to approve many unsafe pharmaceuticals. Maybe no bribes were offered.

  8. I believe that the nail polish falls into the “undocumented claim” level. Snopes suggests that it’s just at the idea stage; another article says that prototypes aren’t very good for detecting the known things and better at false positives. I’m going to wonder about the other two as well. Can you provide some documentation about their veracity?

  9. There is something terribly wrong with blocking the production of a product which could save someone’s life! Let this product pass if you value people’s safety and life!

  10. Well of course something to protect someone from harm why not pass it…don’t they have enough money to pay you off like Monsanto!!!!!!!!!! you keep passing their poisons!!!!

  11. The federal death worried that it might leach chemicals into the drink? What a f–in joke!!! Is the FDA worried about the Chemtrails with about 36 poisons being sprayed on us daily? Or is a-hole mike taylor worried about the GMO’s that cause CANCER and TUMORS? Hell no!!! They don’t want girls to protect themselves,for the fact the court cases would decline somewhat.

  12. The FDA should stop putting the brakes on cutting-edge research with real-world benefits, some of which have potential life-saving benefits.

  13. The FDA should be split up. The food part of the agency and the drug part of the agency should become two separate agencies – and nutritional supplements should stay with the food part.

  14. The efforts to put out a nail polish & coasters that can pick up date rape drugs should not be stopped.
    I was a rape victim, the police knew he was a rapist, & he was not prosecuted.
    If there is anything that can be done in order to prevent rapes do it.

  15. If they are so concerned about chemicals, etc., they better check out our food supply. Good gosh, do they think we are dumb. Never mind, the answer is yes.

  16. We need to have these easy-to-use products available to women so that they can avoid unwanted drugging and sexual contact by manipulative men.

  17. This is outrageous! I’m a survivor of a gang rape after being drugged. One of the rapists was a cop who’e brother was the DA! Even though I had a witness who was told before my rape that these “men” were going to do this to me; the police refused to arrest them because of “professional courtesy”! I was working 3 jobs to put myself through college and raise my son. The job I was raped at was tending bar. If these swizzle sticks that detect date rape drugs had been available I might have been spared the violence and humiliation of rape! Why would any human being deny such a simple low cost wonderful invention to unsuspecting women? Theses rapes affect a person’s whole life! If prevention is available then do it! FDA shame on you for denying the rights of women to live freely without fear of rape!

  18. Worse yet is the FDA’s handling of GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, and labeling such poisons.

  19. What strikes me is that if someone uses a swizzle stick or fingernail polish and gets a positive reaction…they ain’t drinking any more from that glass. So who cares if some of it leaches into the contents! It’s a lame argument and should be shot down. So, if someone dareth challenge the FDA on the subject, this provides some ammo.

  20. Please move on approving these date rape drug identifiers. The statistics on date rape if awful. Help prevent RAPE

  21. Seriously, you are holding this up while women get raped Cosby style. Forget about the scandal in India for gang rape…this is just a bad. By not moving ahead and helping these innovators to get their products through your door, you are sanctioning the easy raping of young girls by most likely older men who know the ropes and have a few tricks up their sleeves. Why is it so easy for these men to get the date rape drugs but not easy for women to get something to prevent rapes from happening to them? I don’t get it. Get moving and give women the tools they need to stay safe.

  22. Much better to not drink on a date
    Even better, don’t drink; period.
    And, spend our resources and focus on teaching parents to raise boys into men who don’t rape.
    In a way, working on tricks to escape date rape, empowers the existence of such rape.
    There are societies who hardly ever experience rape. Can we learn something?

  23. You just increased my gratitude for being a fourth generation teetotaler. I can only imagine the trouble it saved me. Plus, when I have a good time, I get to remember it!

  24. You should really avoid making statements that imply that women are the only victims of rape like “nnovative products, but only one has the official go-ahead. Why can’t the government get out of the way and let women protect themselves?” if you don’t want to come off as sexist. Credibility down the drain to the author of this one.

  25. It is a shame that some people in this country want
    things to go backward where women are concerned…
    after all the hard work and progress that women have
    struggled for….
    Why are they so against women taking care of
    themselves….?? We are overpopulated already….
    why are some people so against birth control ??

  26. The government is not concerned with chemicals of ANY form leaching or being put into ANY other foods coming our way!!! Look at preservatives, chemical fertilisers, GMO, chemical pesticides & insecticides, additives, imitation foods, anti-biotics in animal production, and on and on and on it goes! What an absurd excuse from the government!

  27. We sound a little irrational on this. We get angry because they approve food additives, cosmetic ingredients and drugs without long term clinical trials and no independent testing. Then we get angry when they do not expedite a product that we desire without clinical trials and independent testing. What if the ingredients are endocrine disruptors and eventually lead to some form of immune suppression? Then we will be angry about that. I think we are just angry. Too much chemical exposure, too many immoral acts against our fellow human, too many greed motivated decisions, and not enough integrity shown by our elected leadership.

  28. To Whom It May Concern;
    With all due respect; I cannot see how you can not allow this product to be put in use. Every woman has a right to be able to protect herself. This woman could be your mother, grandmother, wife, daughter, sister. Women have always lived with this kind of fear. This is a crime of power over a woman; it is not sexual. No one has the right to determine what happens to her body with or without her awareness of the situation. Give women the Power they need to overcome what could be a horrible occurance in her life; with far reaching results in tow. This crime destroys a women’s being. To be overcome by someone’s selfishness and lust alone; is a crime in itself. Do you love the women in your life? Then please help them be able to protect themselves.
    Jennie Cisco

  29. The guidance for new dietary supplements only benefits the pharmaceutical industry, not the American people. I am one of millions of those who have become hyper-sensitive and /or allergic to al, pharmaceuticals, and depriving me and others of natural ways of saving our lives is cruel and unnecessary.
    You already took away my natural cortisol that gave me an active, normal life with no side effects for twenty years. I have Addison’s, so I had to take the synthetic form after that. I have now have thirty side effects including crumbling bones, 4 fractured vertebrae, muscle wasting, damage to ligaments and tendons, stomach bleeding and vomitting, loss of 25 pounds (I now weigh 85 pounds.) and extreme pain all over my body. All I do is lie here in my bed waiting to die. That action did not protect me. It killed me. Please don’t take away any more natural substances that save lives, or prevent research into the amazing components of our food. I don’t know how you sleep at night knowing that many of your decisions may make pharmaceutical companies rich, but they kill people like me. Just because they can’t be patented by the pharmaceutical industry is no reason to keep plant source products off of the market.

  30. It appears to me that our government agencies seem bound to err on the side of caution when something is developed that could be helpful–a new medicine or drug, for instance the date rape testing drugs, and on the side of neglect when something terribly dangerous to use or be exposed to comes up–pesticides for example.

  31. This is Outrageous! The FDA; Routinely re-approves drugs that have been taken off of the market, that have been found to harm consumers, but are dragging their feet on approval of these Rape Preventing tools — Outrageous !!!
    Stop dropping the ball FDA !

  32. The fact that there is such a SIMPLE test to prevent women from being preyed upon is WONDERFUL NEWS !! The fact that once again our government is preventing its future is more than disturbing.
    To those who are hindering the forward motion of this product imagine this. Your daughter comes home seemingly alright, but in her mind she knows something is wrong. Of course she can’t remember WHAT is wrong because she has had her rigbts, and body victimized by a drug so innocuous. Some years later she watches a special about “the date rape drug”, how it inhibits the memory. Ding ! Lights srart going on, memories start like an awful flash back.
    Now it’s too late of course, The evidence is long gone, along with the rapist. What IS left is a feeling of betrayal, being SO stupid to get taken like that.
    This product needs to be made available to EVERY girl who wants it , and it needs to be done immediately.
    Thank you.

  33. I’m all for same day testing of blood, smart phone med apps,date rape drug tests,etc, and feel the FDA should stay out of the way of progress that will benefit all people. This suppression of entrepreneurship by the FDA is the status quo practice by all government agencies in order to suppress individualism,independent thinking and self-reliance. These traits are threats to the global elite who see the human race as a commodity and don’t want to loose control over it or their leverage on the playing field.

  34. The FDA’s action against existing tools that would help prevent rape is a gross manifestation of
    the blindness of patriarchy to women’s rights & needs.

  35. to the FDA!!! what is wrong with you people ??!! this would be be ideal for women to protect them selves. are you to high in your ivory tower that you don’t think it is worthy enough. it is plenty worthy. it could save lives and all the horrible things that go with a rape case. this is 2014 not far from 2015. wake up!! raping women is not slowing down!! certain men think nothing of assaulting women and sometimes men. please pass this this decision. lf this involves money then l understand why you are against this because after all that is what your main goal is . isn’t it???!!! how about the health and well being of even 1 women and better yet many more women!!!! you make enough money. give some up for the welfare and good intentions for women??!!!!!

  36. If this was a male issue, you can bet that there would not be any hestitation about making these products readily available to the public! What’s the problem with the FDA and their hesitation to protect the female population??? This is disgraceful!

  37. The FDA is supposed to be a safety net, not an obstruction to new and valuable innovation.

  38. This is an outrage!!! I think these intelligent, innovative young students should circumvent the preposterous actions of the FDA, and freely distribute their nail polish product by paying unsceduled visits to abused womens’ support groups. They will be able to distribute the product more efficiently if they post a signup sheet on a main bullitin board to convince a sizeabe number of their fellow students to join their ” product distribution task force”. When there are enough signatures on the list, the entire group files out into the school’s parking lot. Each student will then recieve two cases of the special nail polish to load into his/her vehicle. They will then locate as many nearby womens’ groups as they can, and strike as many as they can in a single ambush!! FDA can’t possibly attempt to arrest several thousand “dissenters” all at once!!!

  39. How many centuries must we fight for freedom to control our own bodies. The truth is men should have absolutely no voice as regards my body. How long must we fight for our rights. The truth is if this were you guys, there would be no discussion.

  40. I know we need protection, but not at the cost of innovation! How does one go about fixing a government agency? That would really mean fixing our whole government, good luck with that!
    I don’t have the answers. It gives me a head ache just thinking about our broken government and all of it’s agencies!

  41. FDA is the priincipal barrier to innovating drugs, and a significant cause of the high price of drugs in the USA. It needs immediate reform, but don’t bet on it. Nobody has ever been able to reform a useless US Government project.

  42. I really think that the FDA should grant approval for all of these products while subjecting them to rigorous testing. Then, if they find problems, they can recall them. Meanwhile, lives will be saved!

  43. Why can’t the FDA block the development and sale of the date rape drugs themselves. This alone proves that the FDA hates women! Plus, I know that the FDA is a complete whore to Monsanto and all the rest of the “biotech” bullies. That’s it! The FDA HAS TO GO!!!

  44. I am aware of their evil deception regarding MMS (chlorine dioxide). What can i now do to help expose and reform please? 🙂 Thank you

  45. Personally I would rather risk ingesting a chemical from my nail polish & save myself from being raped. So I think the nail polish is a very good idea & it should not be prevented from being used. If we had the nail polish.

  46. More FDA screwups.
    While I was testifying against the criminalization of GHB I found out that some DEA and state narcotics officers were using a “GHB detection kit” as evidence of “probable cause.” I was asked to look into it. It turned out to be nothing but a ferric chloride solution, which turned reddish brown in the presence of GHB. The problem was that it also turned red-brown in the presence of soap (I tested Ivory and Dr. Bronner’s), fruit acids, vinegar, and carbonates of all kinds (positive with Arm and Hammer laundry detergent). But since the FDA is in the way, women might like to know that they can buy inexpensive ferric chloride at a chemical supply house or laboratory store and make a 3% solution for their personal use. Since some alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are made with fruit juices and contain fruit acids like citric acid, some degree of pre-testing might be required to distinguish low levels of fruit acids from high levels of GHB. The biggest risk re GHB as a date-rape drug is salty drinks, like margaritas. GHB is 17% sodium, compared to 35% for table salt. So 4 grams of GHB is as salty as 2 grams (1/2 tsp) of table salt. That amount of salt is hard to miss in a non-salty drink–and when not drunk–but easy to miss when saltiness is expected.

  47. The FDA-Fraud and (chemical)Drug Administration works for the Drug Cartel—by another name “whores” people who are paid for their services.

  48. The FDA took forever to give approval for a plastic container that does not leach chemicals into the food or liquid. As a child, margarine had a little red dot that we all thought was such great fun to break up and mix into the mixture that eventually made margarine. Little did anyone realize it was Red dye #5. The general public didn’t know about carcinogens at that time. I am far less worried about fingernail polish leaching something into a drink that could prove to be tainted to the drinker’s detriment. I hold the same feeling about stirrers although it would look too obvious to have someone bring out their own stirrer to “test” a drink. I say, let’s use a little more common sense and stop going overboard with the typical bureaucratic knee-jerk reactions to everything.

  49. This would be laughable if it wasn’t such a serious, prevalent crime. Sense when does the FDA care whether any of their drugs harm or kill the public. Maybe the fact that it’s men committing crimes against women that illicits such a lack of concern.

  50. I have a 13yrd who is not old enough to drink yet, but why would they not approve any of these…I hope in the next 6-7 yrs at least one of these’s get’s approved. In the mean time I would recommend that anyone with a daughter goes online and orders theses products from companies in country’s that do allow them…

  51. FDA often approves drugs for from major pharmaceutical corps before being fully tested, some of which we find out later have serious side effects. The cautionary principal should apply equally to all. The date rape prevention are chemicals which should be tested before approval. Date rape drugs now on the market should be banned or sold only by prescription for medical purposes. It has been proved that they are dangerous.

  52. Like all other gov’t agencies these days, this is another case of an over-bloated, regulating albatross assuming benevolent powers it has never been given. The free market will decide the desirability of this product, and existing lab protocols will ensure consumer safety.

  53. Until it is tested IAW good science and the current laws it is an unknown substance and without merit…except for those hoping to make a fortune without concern for the welfare of other’s. That said, the FDA clearly needs to be able to fast track certain drugs and to generally speed-up their means–without sacrificing safety–of clearing or denying approval of a drug(s). However it is not all the FDA’s fault for being ‘slow’ as they are being denied the staff, facilities, and monies by a congress that puts corporate profits first and the well-being of the American citizen last
    I am deeply concerned and disappointed that Alliance for Natural Health

  54. At first I was surprised by so many of the comments on this site, but then I realized that most people here are not in the biotech industry and really don’t understand the FDA approval process. I am a vegan, earth-loving, organic/local-food eating, obsessive recycler who supports women’s rights (especially since I am one), limited population growth, limited government, and equality for all. However, I’ve also worked as a scientist and manager in the Biotech industry for 12 years. The FDA requires strict adherence to drug/medical device development regulations for a reason–to protect the public. I’m not saying they are 100% successful (for brevity I’ll skip details), but in general, as I can say from working for 5 drug/device development companies (2 start-ups and 3 global), the system is there to protect the public. Every day of my work is affected in some way by compliance with FDA regulations–which, considering the industry and its risks (many of which are likely not obvious to those outside the industry), are generally VERY sensible and sufficiently stringent for public protection.
    I agree with someone else who posted that the FDA needs a way to fast-track certain drugs. In fact that process does exist for drugs that may help some cases of life-threatening disease. Also, the approval process is less stringent for less complex/less risky products. It would be fantastic if the products described in this article could be fast-tracked, but to say that the entire process like the IND should be avoided is, in my opinion, based on a lack of understanding of the FDA’s full regulatory process. What if the swizzle stick or polish resins, for example, contain some leachable compound that harms someone if ingested over time? What are the controls over manufacturing this swizzle stick or polish, to insure that they’re never contaminated with a harmful substance? This is some of the info checked through the FDA approval process. If an exception were made for these products, then what else should have an exception? Every possible new drug is designed to help some segment of the population–so what justifies saying these few should be bypassed?
    Not only that, if these products were allowed to bypass part of the FDA process and then people using them were harmed, folks would be screaming that the FDA hadn’t done enough to protect the public. Considering the pressure for companies to get new products onto the market, many companies would…

  55. If a female bartender wears nail polish and touches ice cubes and/or a swizzle stick, does her nail polish have to be FDA approved.
    If a patron wears nail polish and sticks her finger in her own drink, is she subject to Federal arrest?

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