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Drug Maker Faces Suit Over Ephedra

Mar 12, 2003 | The Lincoln Courier

The company whose ephedra dietary supplement has been linked to the recent death of a Baltimore Orioles pitcher was sued Monday for false advertising by several California law enforcement agencies.

The manufacturer of the ephedra product Xenadrine RFA-1 was named in a civil lawsuit filed jointly in Napa County Superior Court by eight California district attorneys and the San Diego City Attorney's Office.

The lawsuit alleges that Cytodyne and its chief executive, Robert Chinery, made false and misleading claims about Xenadrine's safety and ability to promote weight loss.

A Florida medical examiner attributed Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler's heatstroke death in February in part to his use of Xenadrine.

Cytodyne's advertisements also "conspicuously fail" to disclose links between ephedra products and medical side-effects that include heart attack, stroke and death, said San Diego Deputy City Attorney Joan McNamara.

Chinery said Cytodyne stands behind the effectiveness of its products and the truthfulness of its advertising. He said the San Francisco District Attorney's Office contacted the company more than two years ago and that the company had responded with materials to substantiate its ads.

"It's not a coincidence that at this time the prosecutors have decided to file these allegations, given the current sensationalized climate surrounding ephedra," Chinery said.

The lawsuit follows a California class-action suit brought by a San Diego consumer who alleges Cytodyne made false advertising claims for Xenadrine.

That lawsuit, which is now being tried in San Diego Superior Court, alleges Cytodyne manipulated data from clinical research studies to paint a deceptive picture of its ephedra product.

The class-action lawsuit also alleges that Cytodyne paid professional models and body builders to take part in a "before and after" photo advertising campaign designed to mislead consumers.

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