Libel suit against supplement critic fails

Posted 31 January 2017

Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, has successfully defended against a suit brought against him by Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals.

In 2015, the journal Drug Testing and Analysis published an article, “An amphetamine isomer whose efficacy and safety in humans has never been studied, β-methylphenylethylamine (BMPEA), is found in multiple dietary supplements,” which was co-authored by Cohen and three colleagues.

Not long afterward, the FDA issued warning letters to Hi-Tech and other manufacturers whose products contained BMPEA. [Recent FDA action on dietary supplements labeled as containing BMPEA. FDA Web site, April 27, 2015]

Hi-Tech’s lawsuit charged that the article and subsequent public comments by Cohen included false and defamatory statements about the safety of Hi-Tech products that contain BMPEA.

The jury disagreed, ruling in Cohen’s favor in less than 3 hours. Stat News has published a comprehensive report on the lawsuit and prior legal troubles of Hi-Tech’s president, Jared Wheat. The article stated that Wheat was openly hopeful that the long and costly legal battle (estimated cost between $300,000 and $400,000) “will scare away other academics from investigating the supplement industry.”

[Robbins R. A supplement maker tried to silence this Harvard doctor—and put academic freedom on trial. Stat News, Jan 10, 2017.]

Source: Consumer Health Digest #17-05 January 29, 2017

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