GROUP wants ephedra supplements banned as a health danger

Wednesday, September 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A consumer group petitioned the government Wednesday to ban food supplements containing ephedra, an herbal stimulant that had been linked to heart attacks, strokes and seizures in otherwise healthy young people.

The Public Citizen Health Research Group called on the Food and Drug Administration to ban the production and sale of dietary supplements containing ephedrine alkaloids.

FDA spokeswoman Ruth Welch said that the agency will carefully consider the petition when it is received.

A report in the New England Journal of Medicine last November said that at least 54 deaths and about 1,000 reports of complications have been linked to the popular bodybuilding supplement since the mid-1990s.

The FDA has since said about 80 deaths have been associated with ephedra, (pronounced eh-FED-ruh).

The products are often sold in health food stores. There are hundreds of unregulated ephedra products on the market.

The dietary supplement industry's Council for Responsible Nutrition has come to the defense of the products with its own review, contending that ephedra is safe for most people, in the proper dose.

In the petition letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, Public Citizen sought the ban of supplements including ephedra and ephedra extract, also known as ma-huang.

Dr. Sidney M. Wolfe, head of the consumer group, said he has obtained FDA reports showing 81 ephedra-related deaths and 1,398 adverse reactions to the products.

In June, the Canadian equivalent of the Department of Health and Human Services, Health Canada, issued a public advisory warning consumers not to use products containing ephedra.