Seven states have filed lawsuits to end the sale of Herbal Ecstacy, a product its maker says is a dietary supplement and not an illegal drug like the well-known Ecstasy.
The suits filed Wednesday contend Herbal Ecstacy, made by Global World Media Corp. of Venice Beach, Calif., is illegal because it has not been approved as a drug by the Food and Drug Administration.
Sean Shayan, president and founder of Global, said no injuries or deaths have been linked to the pills he described as diet helpers. He acknowledged targeting youths as customers.
"It's the youth out there who are actually buying the real drugs," he said. "So what's wrong with purchasing a safe alternative?"
Herbal Ecstacy and similar brands were banned in Florida after the 1996 death of a 20-year-old New York student on spring break who took Ultimate Xphoria, a similar product.
Both contain ephedrine, found in the Asian ephedra, or ma huang, plant. The FDA classifies it as a dietary supplement.
Makers of products sold as alternatives to street drugs say ephedrine produces euphoria and increased sexual awareness. But the FDA has linked ephedrine-laced dietary supplements to at least 17 deaths and 800 illnesses, including nerve damage, strokes and heart attacks.
Besides calling Herbal Ecstacy an illegal drug, the lawsuits allege that Global used deceptive trade practices and false advertising, such as testimonials from a made-up doctor and organization.