Ephedra Marketer Sues San Diego Reporter

By: Jeffrey Gold, Associated Press Writer

(AP) The company that marketed a weight-loss supplement containing ephedra has sued a newspaper reporter and a lawyer, charging they worked together to publish stories that defamed the company.

Nutraquest Inc., formerly known as Cytodyne Technologies Inc., claims Penni Crabtree of The San Diego Union-Tribune gave biased coverage of a California class-action lawsuit filed against Cytodyne.

Nutraquest’s lawsuit charged that Crabtree had a conflict of interest in covering Cytodyne because her husband is an executive at Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc. The lawsuit said that Amylin is a direct competitor of Cytodyne diet products.

The lawsuit also claimed the lawyer who filed the California lawsuit, Todd Macaluso, leaked significant information to Crabtree to “publicize his name and reputation to drum up continued clientele to file further legal action against Cytodyne.”

The case was filed in U.S. District Court in Newark on Tuesday and seeks unspecified damages.

Macaluso’s co-counsel on the San Diego case, James Frantz, called the lawsuit “frivolous, unsubstantiated, and without any merit.”

Crabtree did not immediately return a message seeking comment Wednesday. The chief legal officer for the newspaper’s owner, Copley Press Inc., said it would defend Crabtree if she wishes. The newspaper is not a defendant.

In the California case, a San Diego judge ordered Cytodyne to pay $12.5 million to California consumers, ruling it misled them by making exaggerated and false claims about the safety and effectiveness of Xenadrine RFA-1. The company denied the charges and said it would appeal.

The company phased out the ephedra-based diet pills early this year and is selling an ephedra-free product, said company spokesman Shane Friedman. Cytodyne also changed its name to Nutraquest in June, and licensed the marketing of its products to a new entity, Cytodyne LLC.

Ephedra is an herbal stimulant that critics claim causes heart-related problems by increasing blood pressure in some users.

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