The Alaska Personal Injury Law Group has long been involved in the analysis of defective products sold by the diet supplement industry. Talbert v. E’ola Products, Inc. We have watched this industry repeatedly use unqualified personnel to design and sell products that are, in a word, dangerous. The industry has run amuck with virturally no regulatory oversight, and the consumer is repeatedly defrauded or hurt by exposure to the rapacious and dangerous practices of this industry.
It is thus with some appreciation of the legal and karmic forces at work in the universe to read today’s news that Michael Ellis, former CEO of Metabolife, was sentenced to prison for 6 months based on pleading guilty to a single count of lying to the FDA about the effects of Metabolife 356 and its notorious ingredient, ephedra. Despite the millions the company relieved consumers of, he was fined just $20,000. In 2005, William Bradley, who was Ellis’ partner in Metabolife, pleaded guilty to seven felonies, including tax evasion, and sentenced the following year to six months in custody.
Metabolife and Ellis had sent letters to the FDA stating that they had “never received a notice from a consumer that any serious adverse health event has occurred because of the ingestion of Metabolife 356.” Metabolife’s own documents, however, showed that it had received many reports from consumers of strokes, heart attacks, seizures, and other serious illnesses. The company ultimately turned over the reports of 14,000 ephedra-related adverse events that the company had previously not disclosed to the FDA, which ultimately was a key factor in the FDA’s ban on ephedra imposed on the industry in 2004.
Metabolife became the target of hundreds of lawsuits, and to outrun the posse, went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2005. We have seen this bankruptcy ploy used by a number of diet supplement companies wanting to “hide out while on the lam.”