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Jury Awards Ex-Policeman $4.1 Million in Ephedra Case

August 27, 2004|Hector Becerra | Times Staff Writer

A Chatsworth jury awarded $4.1 million to a former Culver City police officer who suffered a massive stroke after taking an energy-boosting supplement containing the since-banned herbal supplement ephedra.

The jury found retailer Fox Nutrition Inc. of Los Angeles negligent for selling Dymetadrine Xtreme, a dietary supplement, without properly warning of its potential health risks.

On Feb. 11, 2002, Mark Hagen, 42, then a Culver City police sergeant, suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke that caused brain damage and severe disabilities that included limited speech, double vision and the inability to walk without aid.

On Wednesday, the jury awarded Hagen $6.9 million, but reduced the amount by 40% after finding that he bore some responsibility for his injuries.

He took Dymetadrine Xtreme on and off for 18 months despite directions that it be used for no more than 12 weeks. Hagen, a fitness buff, also used the product while taking prescription drugs, including Vicodin, and had used other products containing ephedra since 1993, according to testimony.

The Colorado-based manufacturer of Dymetadrine Xtreme, AST Sports Science Inc., filed for bankruptcy in April. A Fox Nutrition attorney did not return calls seeking comment.

In April, the federal Food and Drug Administration banned ephedra after it was linked to more than 150 deaths. The supplement is an herbal version of pseudoephedrine, a drug found in many over-the-counter cold and allergy medications. Ephedra is believed to suppress appetite and burn fat while increasing blood pressure and heart rate.

Jurors said Fox Nutrition should have been aware of the product's health risks and done a better job of warning customers. An expert for the plaintiff testified that the product's label was deficient in providing directions for the supplement's use.

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