Consumers Union Asks Lockyer To Investigate Dietary Supplement Manufacturer Metabolife
Consumers Union, a consumer advocacy group, has asked California Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) to investigate whether San Diego-based dietary supplement manufacturer Metabolife International violated state law by "concealing complaints about health problems with its products," the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Metabolife manufactures a diet pill that contains ephedra, an herb that researchers have linked to heart attacks, seizures and strokes. In a letter to Lockyer, Consumers Union West Coast Director Elizabeth Imholz wrote, "Metabolife's apparent failure to alert state officials to serious, concealed health danger associated with" the company's products may have violated the state Corporate Liability Act, a law used to protect employees against workplace risks, the Union-Tribune reports. Metabolife faces a federal investigation into allegations that the company made false statements to the FDA about 13,000 reports on side effects associated with the company's products. Metabolife Attorney Lanny Davis called the Consumers Union allegations "reckless," adding, "I challenge Consumers Union to cite a single clinical scientific study in the last 20 years that has ever demonstrated that Metabolife's combination of ephedrine and caffeine, when taken as directed on the label, is unsafe when taken by appropriate users."
The case also may face legal difficulties. According to the Union-Tribune, under the state's corporate crime law, the "concealed danger has to be subject to a regulatory authority." The FDA does not have the authority to regulate Metabolife's products under a 1994 federal law, and two California laws enacted last month that will allow the state to regulate ephedra products do not take effect until next year. However, Hallye Jordan, a spokesperson with the Attorney General's Office, said that the office will take the request from Consumers Union under review (Ainsworth, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.