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OxyElite Pro User Sues USPlabs, GNC

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HAWAIIA woman who allegedly suffered acute hepatitis after purchasing OxyElite Pro, a product marketed as a weight-management supplement, sued the beleaguered manufacturer USPlabs LLC and the retailer GNC Holdings Inc.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii, Everine Van Houten claimed she has been unable to work for much of the year due to her liver illness.

The personal injury case is the first of what is likely to be a large number of lawsuits filed against USPlabs, whose supplement has been linked to a hepatitis outbreak in Hawaii. Health officials said the outbreak resulted in one death, required two liver transplants and caused dozens of other illnesses.

Earlier this month, USPlabs destroyed its inventory of OxyElite Pro supplements, which contained an ingredient FDA claimed is not safe. Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., director of FDA's division of dietary supplement programs, indicated last week during SupplySide West that the supplements had a value of USD $22 million.

According to the lawsuit, Houten purchased OxyElite Pro tablets from a GNC store in February. She consumed the tablets and a "new 'formulation' of the supplement, and then fell ill in March with symptoms that included abdominal pain, fatigue, muscle aches and nausea, lawyers for Seattle-based Marler Clark and Honolulu-based Ogawa, Lau, Nakamura & Jew contended.

After being hospitalized in August at the Hilo Medical Center where she was employed as a clerk, Houten was diagnosed with acute hepatitis, according to the complaint.

"As a result of Plaintiff's acute hepatitis and relating symptoms and medical care, Plaintiff was unable to work through much of 2013," the lawsuit alleged. "The Plaintiff continues to undergo testing and medical monitoring of her liver and continues to experience symptoms related to her liver injury."

The lawsuit asserted claims of strict liability, negligence and breach of warranties. 

USPlabs did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit. Citing "corporate policy," GNC spokeswoman Laura Brophy declined to comment.

USPlabs is likely to face other lawsuits in the coming months. Class action lawyers are advertising their services in connection with the outbreak in Hawaii. Such lawsuits could prove extremely costly and distracting for USPlabs, whose Jack3d pre-workout supplement was reformulated after FDA seized $8.5 million in supplements that contained the controversial stimulant, DMAA (1, 3-Dimethylamylamine).

USPlabs has consistently maintained that its productsincluding the energy and fat-burning OxyElite Proare safe.

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