San Diego Superior Court Judge Orders Company To Pay $12.5 Million in Ephedra Lawsuit
San Diego Superior Court Judge Ronald Styn on Friday ordered Cytodyne Technologies, which manufactures weight-loss drugs, to pay $12.5 million in restitution to consumers who purchased its ephedra product Xenadrine RFA-1 between 1997 and June 2001, when the class-action suit was filed, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Crabtree, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/31). In his ruling, Styn said the company excluded, misstated and overstated scientific findings and coaxed researchers it commissioned to present their findings in a manner favorable to the company, the New York Times reports. Attorneys for Cytodyne argued that its claims were scientifically valid and that "puffery" in advertising is an acceptable practice. Under the ruling, Styn ordered the money -- which accounts for all profits on the product made in California from 1997 to 2001 -- to be put into a distribution pool for consumers but did not specify how it would be distributed. Cytodyne lawyers said they will appeal the decision (Fessenden, New York Times, 5/31).
The ruling is "the latest in a series of setbacks for the multimillion-dollar ephedra industry" after the herbal stimulant was linked to the death of 23-year-old Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steven Bechler in February, according to the Union-Tribune. James Frantz, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said, "[Y]ou can't make safety and benefit claims unless you can back them up -- and these claims aren't backed up" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/31). Mark Mazzarella, attorney for Cytodyne, said, "It's not a big company, and this is a huge hit." Sales of all weight loss pills totaled $50 million for the company last year, according to the Times. The Legislature currently is considering legislation (SB 582) to ban the sale of products containing ephedra (New York Times, 5/31).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.