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In 2015, one of us published a peer-reviewed study, together with colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco, replicating prior research from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) detecting a designer stimulant, β-methylphenylethylamine, in sports, weight loss, and “cognitive function” supplements sold in the United States. The confirmatory study prompted the FDA to take enforcement action against companies selling the stimulant as a dietary ingredient. One of the companies that received an FDA warning letter sued the study’s authors for $200 million in damages for libel, claiming, without supporting scientific evidence, that multiple statements in the article were false. Following intrusive discovery and a 7-day jury trial in federal court, a Massachusetts jury rejected the company’s claims and entered a verdict in the authors’ favor. The case is just a recent example of using litigation to target scientists.


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