Disposal of OxyELITE Pro put on hold

The state Department of Health’s disposal of embargoed OxyELITE Pro products from island store shelves has been delayed after an attorney asked the state not to destroy the products because they could be used as evidence in future litigation, department spokeswoman Janice Okubo said Tuesday.

A day earlier, the Health Department announced that it would collect and destroy the dietary supplement with possible ties to three dozen cases of liver failure and acute hepatitis. Okubo said health officials were going to collect and dispose of the OxyELITE product from three Maui stores (two GNC stores and one Vitamin World outlet) and 20 on Oahu. The product was sold to help people lose weight and build muscle. It comes in pill and powder forms.

State inspectors have inventoried nearly 330,000 capsules and more than 520 pounds of powder that were pulled from store shelves. The retail value of that product is about $250,000.

The attorney’s written request to suspend disposal of the product was submitted to the state Department of the Attorney General after the announcement was made, Okubo said.

“In response to this request, the attorney general instructed DOH to suspend the disposal and thereafter took temporary possession of the products,” she said. “While the attorney general evaluates this request, the products will be stored in a secure location.”

The state’s action to collect the nutritional supplement from retailers came after USPLabs issued a voluntary recall of the product in cooperation with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

An ongoing Health Department investigation has identified OxyELITE Pro as the only common factor in multiple cases of liver damage and acute hepatitis in Hawaii, the department said.

On Oct. 8, the Health Department asked Hawaii retailers to pull the product from their shelves, and a mandatory embargo was issued the next day. Maui woman Sonnette Marras, 48, died after taking the OxyELITE pills to lose weight after she had been pregnant, her sister said.