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Oriole Player's Widow Sues Drug Company


Jul 17, 2003 | New York Daily News

Steve Bechler's widow has filed a $600 million lawsuit against the manufacturer and distributor of the ephedra supplement she says killed the 23-year-old Baltimore Orioles pitcher.

Kiley Bechler also wants the sale of ephedra products banned, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"Steve Bechler is dead," the lawsuit says. "Ephedra killed him."

Bechler collapsed in Fort Lauderdale during a Feb. 16 spring-training workout. His body temperature rose to more than 108 degrees, and he died the next day.

A bottle of the supplement Xenadrine RFA-1 was found in his locker, and Broward County medical examiner Joshua Perper said ephedra was a significant factor in his heatstroke death. A toxicology test confirmed "significant amounts" of ephedra led to his heatstroke, Perper said.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, names Cytodyne Technologies of Manasquan, N.J., which marketed and distributed Xenadrine RFA-1, as a defendant. Cytodyne president Bob Chinery and Long Island-based Phoenix Laboratories, which manufactured the supplement, are co-defendants.

In a joint statement, the companies said improper medical screening by the Orioles, not the supplement, caused Bechler's death.

"Although it is easy and perhaps overly simplistic to blame a supplement for the death, the real truth is the allegation that his death was caused by ephedrine is wholly unsupported by the facts or scientific evidence," the companies said.

"By improperly ascribing blame to a supplement and ignoring the real factors that contributed to the tragedy, such as improper medical screening by the Baltimore Orioles, efforts to prevent future or similar type tragedies will be impeded."

The Food and Drug Administration has linked ephedra to more than 100 deaths and scores of heart attacks, seizures, strokes and other significant health problems. The lawsuit says Cytodyne and Phoenix Labs failed to warn Bechler and other consumers about potential risks.

Cytodyne has stopped selling its ephedra supplement.

In May, a California judge ruled that ads for Xenadrine RFA-1 were misleading and ordered the manufacturer to pay $12.5 million to California consumers. The judge, Ronald Styn of San Diego Superior Court, said Cytodyne misrepresented research, minimized ephedra's health risks and used misleading testimonials to market Xenadrine RFA-1.

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