A US university has filed a petition implicating three dietary supplement manufacturers in the death of one of its students.
Rashidi Wheeler was a student at Northwestern University, and his parents have taken legal action against the college over his death. In response, Northwestern has named General Nutrition Corp., Next Proteins and Cytodyne Technologies as defendants in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Wheeler's parents, reports the Daily News.
Ephedra has been linked to strokes, heart attacks, dizziness, psychosis and dozens of deaths, and is banned by a number of sporting associations, but its popularity as a weight loss product remains high. However, the paper reports that the backlash has already begun, with insurance premiums for ephedra makers rocketing.
With the threat of more lawsuits hanging over them, the major supplement manufacturers in the US are calling for clearer guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration.
"The bigger companies will probably want more guidelines to follow to cut out the riff-raff that's making bad products," Sharon Lindsay, a Los Angeles consultant who specialises in sports marketing and public relations, told the Daily News. "The larger companies like EAS, Weider and MetRx are very concerned about what's going on right now. With the threat of being sued, they're going to be a lot more careful in their directives for use and in their advertising."
Although Northwestern University has sought to implicate the supplement manufacturers in Wheeler's death, the student's parents have never seen ephedra as the culprit. Instead, they claim that the university provided inadequate emergency care when the American football player collapsed during a practice session last August. This claim would appear to be borne out by the Cook County Medical Examiner's report, which said that levels of the dietary supplement found in Wheeler's body were not toxic.
However, even though ephedra itself might not have been the direct cause of the student's death, it could have aggravated an undiagnosed medical condition, such as a heart problem.
The problem for Wheeler's parents is that he should not have been using ephedra at all - its use is banned by the American football authorities - which is perhaps why they have focused their case on the university. It also faces a problem in implicating the supplement manufacturers, the paper claims, as they are major companies with armies of lawyers, a very daunting prospect for anyone attempting to suggest a link between their products and a fatality.