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Ephedra Class-Action Lawsuit Begins

Plaintiff: Xenadrin RFA1 Misled Public On Safety Of Ephedra

Mar 6, 2003 | A New Jersey-based company manipulated data from clinical research studies on its top ephedra product to present a false picture of the pill's benefits and safety, a plaintiff's attorney said Thursday.

The allegations came in the opening statement of the trial of a class action lawsuit against Cytodyne Technologies, maker of Xenadrine RFA-1, an amphetamine-like herb that produces slight, short-term weight loss.

Xenadrine also raises blood pressure and increases heartbeat, effects that have been linked to a number of deaths.

The ephedra diet pill recently was linked to the death of 23-year-old Baltimore Orioles pitching prospect Steve Bechler.

"We're going to prove the studies that are cited by Cytodyne, as far as their product Xenadrine RFA-1, do not substantiate the advertising claims with respect to the product in terms of the (ethics), safety or product performance enhancement," said James Frantz, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

The class action lawsuit was filed in June 2001 by Jason Park, a commercial pilot from La Jolla who bought a bottle of Xenadrine that same year.

Plaintiffs in the case argued Thursday that the label on the product was misleading. Attorney James Franz said the product made references to nonexistent studies on the product.

"They did not have a published clinical human study on this product until April 2000," he said. "For three years, they sold their product without having a published clinical human study."

In court documents filed a year ago, Cytodyne listed published studies as proof that its products are safe in reducing weight.

Mark Mazzarella, an attorney for the respondents, said Cytodyne should be commended for commissioning studies on its products.

"They do what other companies don't do," the attorney said in his opening statement, "because they knew their product was safe and effective."

The lawsuit also claims Cytodyne paid professional models and bodybuilders to gain weight, lose it, then show off in "before and after photos" to tout the merits of Xenadrine.

The trial before Superior Court Judge Ronald Styn is expected to take at least a month.

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