An Israeli woman filed a NIS 2.5 million lawsuit yesterday against Herbalife International and its Israeli affiliate, Herbalife Israel, claiming that the companies' products had caused her chronic liver disease, with the risk of future liver failure necessitating a transplant.
In her suit, submitted to district court, Mali Nir, 54, alleged that products marketed by the California-based nutritional-supplements and weight-control company and its Israel affiliate as natural and promoting "health for life" destroyed her health.
The suit claims that she "was never advised that consuming the companies' products could cause irreversible liver damage, and that they could even be poisonous to the body."
Nir said she began taking Herbalife supplements in 1998 and even signed on as an Herbalife distributor. She says that the first sign of a problem surfaced in 2001, when she began to experience fatigue and weakness. She then discovered that she had serious liver damage.
When she stopped taking the supplements, her liver function reportedly returned to normal, but with indications of cirrhosis of the liver, along with problems that included pain, chronic fatigue, weakness and insomnia.
Attached to the suit was a medical opinion from Hadassah Hospital internist Dr. Mayer Brezis. In it Brezis stated that research literature from as far back as the 1990s reported the risk of liver damage from herbal products, and that there was a high probability that the Herbalife products caused Nir's liver problems.
The suit also alleges that Israeli researchers documented 12 cases of severe liver damage similar to Nir's in patients who used Herbalife products like the ones she took.
Herbalife Israel said in a response that the company had not yet received the lawsuit.
Herbalife sells a wide range of dietary supplements, appetite-control and weight-loss products, to "maximize your health and fitness goals," the company writes on its international Web site.
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