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New York Attorney General Investigates Herbal and Dietary Supplements

On Behalf of | Mar 13, 2015 | Firm News

Personal injury takes many forms, and could be physical (e.g. from a fall, an accident, etc.), or psychological (for example, if your mental well-being suffers as a result of someone else’s negligence). Most of us take reasonable measures to stay safe, and to stay fit and well, but what happens when the thing you believe you are doing in order to be healthy, actually turns out to be damaging?

We represented one such case recently, when a woman became sick from inadvertently overdosing on vitamin D in a dietary supplement she had been taking. We settled the case for $450,000.

ABC Dophilus

This type of personal injury case is sadly, not unique. In October last year, a premature baby died after healthcare staff administered a dietary supplement. The children’s probiotic, ABC Dophilus, made by America’s largest supplement manufacturer, NBTY, for its global brand, Solgar, was discovered to contain the Rhizopus Oryzae fungus, the organism responsible for the death of the infant.

If the fungus, which can cause infections of the lungs, sinuses, and skin, is not treated promptly, it can, according to the CDC;

“… spread throughout the body, and the infection is often fatal.”

Although Solgar recalled ABC Dophilus, noting that they did so after receiving “one complaint”, the FDA has nevertheless warned healthcare professional of the dangers of using dietary and herbal supplements within hospitals.

Ephedra Deaths

In 2004, after 155 people – including Baltimore Orioles pitcher, Steve Bechler – died, the FDA banned the nationwide sale of all herbal supplements which contained ephedra. The amphetamine-like stimulant which claimed to aid weight loss, and had been used by dieters and bodybuilders, was also responsible for injuring thousands of other consumers. Prior to the FDA ban, several states, including New York, California, and Illinois had already banned Ephedra.

Unregulated Herbal Supplements

Thanks to Utah’s Republican senator, Orrin G. Hatch, manufacturers of herbal and dietary supplements are not subject to the same scrutiny that other drug products are. Utah is considered the Silicon Valley of herbal supplement production, with companies such as Xango, which sells its bottles of mangosteen juice for $40.

Hatch, whose election campaigns receive millions of dollars from Xango and other supplement manufacturers in Utah, has repeatedly blocked moves to regulate the herbal and dietary supplement industry – moves which would benefit the American public by protecting them from products which could potentially contain illegal and unsafe ingredients. In addition to obstructing efforts to tighten up controls over dietary supplements, Hatch sponsored the 1994 federal law which restricts the FDA from subjecting herbal supplements to its strict approval process.

Barcoding DNA Tests For Herbal Supplements

Earlier this year, as part of a crackdown to help ensure the safety of consumers of dietary supplements, New York Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman, announced that after commissioning DNA tests of several hundred bottles of six major herbal supplements, 80% contained none of the herbal ingredients – e.g. ginkgo biloba, St. John’s Wort, and Echinacea – which were listed on the labels. Following this discovery, he ordered four of the major retailers (Walgreens, Walmart, GNC, and Target) to remove their own-brand supplements from their shelves.

Commenting on the move, Schneiderman said;

“New Yorkers and consumers nationwide deserve confidence that when an herbal supplement is represented as authentic, pure and natural, it really is.”

If you have suffered as a consequence of taking dietary and herbal supplements, you should contact personal injury lawyers, Antin, Ehrlich, and Epstein LLP as soon as possible to schedule a complimentary consultation to see if you have a case. Our expert lawyers will answer your questions, and ascertain the best course of action for you. Call your New York personal injury lawyers, today on 917-730-7151.