June 12, 2008
SAN DIEGO—Former Metabolife CEO Michael Ellis has been sentenced to six months in jail for lying about Metabolife's adverse event reports for its Metabolife 365 weight-loss product. Ellis, who pleaded guilty in November to one count of making false statements to the FDA in 1999 about Metabolife 356, was also ordered to pay a $20,000 fine.
Prosecutors argued Metabolife sent FDA letters stating the company "never received a notice from a consumer that any serious adverse health event has occurred because of the ingestion of Metabolife 356." However, the U.S Attorney's office stated Metabolife's records showed it had, indeed, received letters from consumers who experienced adverse events—including seizures, heart attacks, strokes, loss of consciousness and other serious illnesses—after taking Metabolife 365.
In 2002, Metabolife supplied FDA with 14,000 reports of ephedra-related events that the company had previously not disclosed to the agency. Consequently, Ellis and Metabolife were indicted on several counts of making false statements, and subsequent civil suits forced the company into Chapter 11 bankruptcy by 2005.
Ellis, who is no longer working in the dietary supplement industry, said he decided to plead guilty to move on with his life since the other lawsuits and litigations are already behind him.
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