August 12, 2001-Taking the ultimate risk?
If nothing else, ephedra has stimulated plenty of controversy among medical experts and lawmakers. Critics claim it can cause high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and other ailments. A chemical cousin of methamphetamine, ephedra is an ancient Chinese herb that can act as a powerful stimulant, particularly when combined with caffeine-rich herbal ingredients, such as guarana.
Ultimate Orange, an over-the-counter dietary supplement that has been cited as the one taken by some Northwestern football players on the day senior safety Rashidi Wheeler died during running drills, combines both ephedra and guarana. Wheeler died of an asthma attack, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office. The Wheeler family contends that at least 10 players dropped during those drills.
"I've never seen so many guys falling like that," said the player, who spoke on condition he not be identified. "After [Wheeler] passed, guys were like, 'Some guys took Ultimate Orange.' " An NU spokesman said Saturday that the school's investigation into the events surrounding Wheeler's death will include whether supplements played a role. The Los Angeles Times reported that two other recent football deaths have possible links to ephedra-based supplements:
Curtis Jones, 34, died last Sunday after playing an indoor professional football game in Las Vegas. His family said Jones took an ephedra derivative earlier in his career. Florida State freshman Devaughn Darling collapsed and died in February after a workout. Autopsy results were inconclusive about the cause of death but revealed the presence of ephedrine in his system.
NU athletic department officials said last week that the school tells its student-athletes to inform the team's medical staff of any dietary supplement they are taking. If those athletes have any questions about whether the substance is either harmful or illegal under NCAA rules, the school said it encourages the players to bring it to the trainers. "Whether or not they listen to that advice, who knows," NU director of athletics Rick Taylor said during one of the school's news conferences last weekend concerning the Aug. 3 death of Wheeler, 22. While manufacturers of such supplements have promised rich rewards for those taking over-the-counter herbal products containing ephedra while working out, many lawyers representing those who claim to have suffered illnesses from them have claimed the same. Which is why Internet searches for ephedra turn up Web sites either sponsored by or with links to law firms specializing in ephedra-related lawsuits.
Next Nutrition reportedly stopped producing Ultimate Orange last May, months after the company paid a $4 million out-of-court settlement to Todd Weger, a career Army and Gulf War veteran who had been using Ultimate Orange for 18 months when he had a stroke while running on a treadmill in 1998. Weger suffered brain damage and lost the use of his left arm. There was no admission of guilt by Next Nutrition, and the product was still available Saturday, which was when the Sun-Times purchased it at a local supplement store for $49.99. Federal regulators have received more than 1,400 adverse-effect reports since 1994 from consumers claiming ephedra products caused everything from mood swings, insomnia and diarrhea to heart attacks and seizures. The Food and Drug Administration has received approximately 80 reports of ephedra-linked deaths.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury as a result of taking any drug or supplement, call Law Offices of Robert Dourian now at 800-790-8856 or CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT A SIMPLE CASE FORM. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to review your case, we will work on a contingent fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary award or recovery of funds. Don't delay! You may have a valid claim and be entitled to compensation for your injuries, but a lawsuit must be filed before the statute of limitations expires.