Shapiro, Haber & Urmy Defeats Motion to Dismiss Federal Class Action Lawsuit Against Distributors Of VSL#3 Probiotic Product

In Starr et al vs. VSL Pharmaceuticals, Inc. et al., the judge recently denied, in large part, the defendants’ motion to dismiss. The plaintiffs, represented by Shapiro, Haber & Urmy, allege that the U.S. licensor (VSL Pharmaceuticals, Inc.) and distributors (Alfasigma USA, Inc. and Leadiant Biosciences, Inc.) of the probiotic product VSL#3 deliberately defrauded consumers across the United States by telling them that the VSL#3 product they purchased contained the same original proprietary formula invented by Professor Claudio De Simone, despite the fact that the defendants knew the formula had materially changed in June 2016 and that the new formula had never been tested to demonstrate efficacy. Plaintiffs claim that, in doing, so the defendants violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) and the laws of various states.

Defendants moved to dismiss on various grounds, but the Court largely denied that motion, leaving Plaintiffs’ RICO claims and various state law claims intact. In upholding Plaintiffs’ RICO claims, the Court noted that Plaintiffs alleged “a multiyear enterprise involving a substantial number of false and misleading marketing and advertising materials disseminated through a nationwide distribution and sales network that victimized numerous individuals across the United States.” The Court also noted that “Plaintiffs have alleged a scheme whose victims generally have health conditions for which they had come to rely on a particular product, such that it had, at a minimum, the potential to adversely impact the health of a significant number of individuals.” A copy of the Court’s ruling appears here.

The case is titled Starr et. al. v. VSL Pharmaceuticals, Inc. et al., Civil Action No. 8:19-cv-02173-TDC and is pending in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland.