The federal Food and Drug Administration is considering
a nationwide ban on ephedra, The Associated Press reported July
The possible action was revealed by FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan
as he spoke before two House panels.
The agency had not acted up till now against the
herbal supplement because of legal restrictions. Under the Dietary
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 July 23 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.
More and more governments have been looking at regulating or banning
the drug in recent years.
In early 2002, Health Canada requested a recall of certain products
containing ephedra/ephedrine from the market after a risk assessment
team concluded that these products pose a serious risk to health.
In May of this year, Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed
into law a measure that bans the sale of pills containing ephedra
in Illinois. Under
the new law, all over-the-counter sales of ephedra would
be banned except in products that receive approval from the Secretary
and Human Services, and then only when deemed “safe and effective
for its intended use” or under a label approved by the federal
Food and Drug Administration.
And while the drug is legal in most states, it still
represents a risk for truckers who take it. Donna Ryun of OOIDA’s member
services said truckers who are about to take a drug test “should
advise attending physician of any non-prescription drugs (even herbal)
that you are taking.” Ephedra can initially cause a false positive
on drug tests, making it look as if the trucker has taken
a forbidden substance.