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Stroke Victim Sues Herbalife

Dietary product with ephedra is to blame, former city man says

Aug 13, 2004 | Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

A former Rochester man has joined the many people across the country who are suing ephedra manufacturers for selling a product that has reportedly caused heart attack, stroke and death.

Robert A. Smith said he took an Herbalife product with ephedra and then had a blood vessel burst in his brain, resulting in a stroke in May 2002, according to the complaint filed in state Supreme Court last month.

The lawsuit does not say how long Smith took the product, what he was doing at the time of the stroke, and it does not specify Smith's age. Smith has since moved to Florida and could not be reached for comment.

Smith is represented by a New Jersey lawyer who is also a liaison to similar lawsuits against Herbalife filed in New York City. Records show there are about a half-dozen lawsuits filed against Herbalife in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Ephedra is a naturally occurring substance derived from plants. But its principal active ingredient, ephedrine, is regulated as a drug when chemically synthesized, according to the FDA. Ephedra was most often placed in dietary supplements and marketed as a way to lose weight and increase energy.

In April, the Food and Drug Administration banned ephedra-based products because their use was linked to more than 150 deaths since 1994. The ban forced more than 60 companies to stop adding ephedra to their supplements.

Last month, a grand jury indicted a different company, Metabolife, and its founder for telling the FDA it had never received complaints about serious side effects. In fact, Metabolife later revealed it had received about 13,000 complaints about ephedra.

Smith is asking for an unspecified amount of damages to pay for his medical expenses, suffering and “requests an award for additional damages in an amount sufficiently large to be an example to others and to deter (Herbalife) and others from engaging in similar conduct,†according to the lawsuit.

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