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Judge Will Make Ephedra Weight-Loss Trial Ruling By May 23

May 7, 2003 | San Diego Union Tribune

A judge said today he will rule later on a class action lawsuit that claims the maker of an ephedra-based weight loss pill manipulated data and misled consumers about the product's efficacy and safety.

Superior Court Judge Ronald Styn said he hopes to issue a ruling by May 23.

Brian Molloy, an attorney for defendant Cytodyne Technologies, said in his closing argument of the six-week trial that the plaintiffs presented no evidence that the advertising for Xenadrine RFA-1 was misleading.

Xenadrine RFA-1 is an amphetamine-like herb that produces slight, short- term weight loss.

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

The plaintiffs allege that clinical studies Cytodyne cited don't substantiate advertising claims regarding the safety or performance- enhancement benefits of the weight-loss pill.

David Noonan, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told Judge Ronald Styn that Cytodyne didn't do the scientific studies on Xenadrine RFA-1 that it claimed in its advertising.

"I don't think you can fairly say you're all about the science. You're all about the advertising," Noonan said.

The attorney said Cytodyne spent between $15 million and $20 million in advertising Xenadrine RFA-1 compared to $63,000 for scientific studies.

"They needed science to generate ad copy," Noonan told the judge. "It's misleading to advertise the way that they did."

But Molloy told the judge that the plaintiffs never presented one witness to testify about what a consumer thought when reading what was written on a bottle of Xenadrine RFA-1.

The attorney said the plaintiffs failed to present a survey to show how consumers would respond to the weight loss product.

Molloy said the efficacy of the ephedra-based pill was based on "genuine science."

"There is an abundance of evidence to show the efficacy and safety of Xenadrine RFA-1," the attorney told the judge.

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

The suit 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.

Xenadrine raises blood pressure and increases heartbeat, effects 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.

In March, the San Diego City Attorney's Office joined in a separate lawsuit aimed at stopping what it calls misleading advertising involving state sales of Xenadrine RFA-1.

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