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FDA considers ephedra ban

The federal Food and Drug Administration is considering a nationwide ban on ephedra, The Associated Press reported recently.

FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan revealed the possible action as he spoke before two House panels in late July.

The agency had not acted up till now against the herbal supplement because of legal restrictions. Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, to ban a supplement, the FDA said it must “show that the supplement presents a ‘significant or unreasonable risk of illness or injury’ under the conditions recommended or suggested in labeling.”

However, The AP reported Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said that companies producing supplements such as ephedra should report possible side effects to the agency, and that Congress should update the 1994 law to allow that to occur.

Ephedra is an herbal supplement frequently sold at convenience stores, and is often marketed as an “energy booster” and weight-loss aid. However, while the product is available over-the-counter, that does not mean it’s a good idea to use it.

According to HealthScout, a health information Web site, the supplement is linked to almost 100 deaths, including high school, college and professional athletes who have collapsed during games or practice. For some, the danger is especially acute.

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