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Oklahoma vendors sell ephedra after judge's ruling

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Some Oklahoma vendors have started reselling products containing ephedra after a federal judge in Utah ruled against the FDA's ban of the substance.

In 2003, the Food and Drug Administration released a report directly attributing five deaths to ephedra, a stimulant often sold as pills or tablets usually taken for weight loss and more energy.

A year later, the agency's formal ban went into effect, stating there was ``significant or unreasonable risk'' of illness or injury.

A federal judge in Utah struck down the FDA's yearlong ban on supplements containing ephedra on April 14, 2005, FDA spokesman Mike Herndon said.

The ruling included that the Utah-based Nutraceutical International Corporation and its subsidiary Solaray must market the ephedrine alkaloids. And, the product must be formulated to deliver no more than 10 milligrams in a 24-hour period.

Brandon Hodges, owner of Max Muscle, in Oklahoma City, started reselling ephedra products after the ruling. So did Josh Barrett, owner of a Sportsline Nutrition franchise at Quail Springs Mall.

Hodges said he warns potential buyers of side effects. He said liability lies with ephedra producers, not his store.

The same goes for Barrett, who said he has a host of lawyers ready to come to his defense should a problem arise.

``I can't say that I don't think about it at all, but it doesn't bother me as much now as it used to,'' Barrett said. ``We've got all the backing we need.''

Hodges acknowledges risks are associated with ephedra. He won't sell to anyone under 18 and urges anyone who has not used the product before not to buy it.

``My feeling is that if a person is healthy and doesn't have cardiac or heart problems, then it's probably OK to take ephedra,'' he said. ``But I still warn them.''

Barrett said he thinks the battle with the FDA over ephedra is won.

``The FDA has confiscated product and they've lost every time,'' he said. ``Legally they can't do anything about it.''

Other stores are not going to take the risk. A spokesman for Akin's Natural Foods in Tulsa said the store will not carry the product, despite having it on shelves before the ban.

``The FDA has come out and said it's not a safe substance,'' Marketing Director Scott Norman said. ``It's something we want to avoid.''
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