PHILADELPHIA (CN) - A diabetic claims Penn Herb Co.'s Gluco-Ease Plus, which the supplement-maker markets as a way to maintain "healthy blood sugar levels" and "reduce sugar build up in the urine" nearly killed him by giving him cholestatic hepatitis and drug-induced liver disease.
Isaac Shaw claims in the Court of Common Pleas that the cause of his health crisis was Uva Ursi leaf, or bearberry, the leading ingredient Penn Herb's supplement. Shaw says Uva Ursi is listed on the FDA Poisonous Plant Database, and that it contains hydroquinone, a toxic chemical known to cause serious liver damage.
"Contrary to the known dangers of long term exposure to Uva Ursi and Hydroquinone, the Gluco-Ease Plus bottle instructions suggest consumption of three to six 525 mg. pills per day, for an unlimited period of time, to 'maintain healthy blood sugar levels and join lot's [sic] of people who are living healthy lives,'" the complaint states.
"The Gluco-Ease Plus bottle lists no warnings whatsoever regarding the toxicity of the product or the potential for serious liver problems," it adds.
Shaw, a 55-year-old plumber, said he bought two bottles of Gluco-Ease Plus in March 2009 on the advice of employees at Penn Herb's Philadelphia retail store.
After taking about 70 of the pills, he began to suffer itching all over his body that grew so severe he sought medical attention in a hospital emergency room.
A liver biopsy showed he had contracted drug-induced hepatitis from the herbal supplement, Shaw says. As a result, he says he's suffered from cholestatic hepatitis, liver failure, shortened life expectancy, debilitating bouts of itchiness, right-side abdominal pain and discomfort, extreme mental anguish, anxiety, loss of sleep and depression.
"Plaintiff, being a lay person, had no idea that the supplement that he ingested could harm him in any way," Shaw says.
Shaw says the product, and Penn Herb's marketing of it without adequate warnings, is "defective and unreasonably dangerous."
He says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a formal warning to Penn Herb Co. in October 2005, informing it that it was violating federal law by suggesting that Gluco-Ease Plus and other products were intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease.
"Rather than electing to have Gluco-Ease Plus evaluated by the FDA to determine if the product actually did what defendant said it did, Penn Herb elected to merely reword the marketing literature to exclude the words diabetes and insulin," the complaint states.
Shaw seeks compensatory and special damages of $50,000 or more for strict liability, negligence, and breach of implied warranty.
He is represented by Thomas A. Lyman III, with Villari, Lentz & Lynam.
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