U.S. will ban ephedra early next year

Herbal stimulant 'too risky to use'

Author: datamining by freeminder
Date: Jan 5, 2004
Views: 2615

The Bush administration is banning the sale of ephedra early next year, and urged consumers Tuesday to immediately stop using the herbal stimulant that was linked to 155 deaths and dozens of heart attacks and strokes.

It was the government's first-ever ban on a dietary supplement, one
that comes eight years after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
first began receiving reports that ephedra could be dangerous.

"The time to stop taking these products is now," Health and Human
Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said. "They are simply too risky to
be used."

But Tom Sokoloff, president of Paradise Health and Nutrition, with
locations in Suntree and Palm Bay, disagreed, saying ephedra was used
in Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years, and, "when used
appropriately, it's safe."

The problem arises when consumers, anxious to lose weight quickly,
think "six pills may work better than three," he said.

Ephedra once was hugely popular for weight loss and body-building.

But government health officials said it can cause life-threatening
side effects, even in seemingly healthy people who use the recommended
doses because the amphetamine-like stimulant speeds heart rate and
constricts blood vessels. It is particularly risky for anyone with
heart disease or high blood pressure or people engaging in strenuous
exercise.

The ban isn't immediate because federal rules require paperwork steps
that mean the earliest it could take effect would be March. But the
FDA wrote 62 current and former makers and sellers on Tuesday that,
"we intend to shut you down," Commissioner Mark McClellan said.

"There are companies out there who've profited by misleading Americans
about the benefits of ephedra, even as they put Americans' health at
risk," McClellan said. "Any responsible manufacturer and retailer
should stop selling these products as soon as possible."

Thompson said he was announcing the upcoming ban now so that people
making New Year's resolutions to lose weight won't be tempted to try
ephedra.

"Ephedra raises your blood pressure and stresses your system,"
McClellan added. "There are far better, safer ways to get in shape."

The FDA put manufacturers on notice that it will be watching what
ingredients replace ephedra in weight-loss products. But while the ban
sets an important legal precedent for supplement regulation, no other
crackdowns are imminent, McClellan said.

Critics called the ephedra ban long overdue.

Sales already have plummeted because of publicity about the herb's
dangers, which peaked after the ephedra-related death of Baltimore
Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler last February.

Sokoloff contended, however, that "ephedra was the least" of Bechler's
health problems, including being overweight.

Sokoloff said many cold medicines contain a synthetic version of
ephedra, yet "they are not being pulled from the market."

Rather than ban the herbal stimulant outright, warning labels would be
enough, he said.

"We do stock it still," Sokoloff said, adding ephedra accounts for
less than 1 percent of dietary-supplement sales nationwide. "But the
government is asking us to stop selling it, and we will.

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