A judge on Friday ruled that the maker of a popular diet pill misled consumers by making exaggerated and false claims about the product’s safety and effectiveness.
Cytodyne Technologies was ordered to pay $12.5 million to California consumers for the claims about the pill, Xenadrine RFA-1.
The company denied the charges and said it would appeal.
Xenadrine includes caffeine and ephedra, an herbal stimulant that critics claim causes heart-related problems by increasing blood pressure in some users.
Xenadrine has been linked to the heatstroke death of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler on Feb. 17.
The company has stopped selling the ephedra-based diet pills and is selling an ephedra-free product.
Superior Court Judge Ronald Styn said Cytodyne’s before-and-after testimonies of Xenadrine’s benefits misled consumers by exaggerating individual results. Styn also took issue with advertisements that boasted of the pill’s “amazing fat burning/muscle-sparing effects.”
Styn said Cytodyne’s president was aware that Xenadrine had not been clinically studied, although that claim was made in some of the product’s advertising.
Friday’s ruling ended a seven-week trial on a class-action lawsuit brought by Jason Park, a San Diego resident who purchased Xenadrine in 2001.
Cytodyne, in a statement from its headquarters in Manasquan, N.J., called the ruling “severe and inappropriate,” and said that the plaintiff was neither injured nor deceived.