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California Ephedra Ban Faces Critical Vote in State Legislature

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Consumers Union Urges Lawmakers to Support SB 582 (Speier)

SACRAMENTO, CA – A proposed California ban on the sale of dietary supplements containing ephedra faces a critical vote in the state Assembly in the coming week. The Assembly Health Committee will hold a hearing and vote on SB 582, introduced by Senator Jackie Speier, on Tuesday, July 1. The proposal has already cleared the California Senate and similar bans have been approved by Illinois and the New York State Legislature.
“Dietary supplements containing ephedra offer dubious health benefits while posing serious health risks to consumers,” said Elisa Odabashian, Senior Policy Analyst for Consumers Union’s West Coast Regional Office. “In light of the federal government’s failure to adequately protect consumers from this dangerous product, we urge state lawmakers to support a California ban on ephedra.”
From January 1993 through October 2000, the FDA received almost 1400 reports of adverse events linked to herbal supplements containing ephedra, including 81 deaths, 32 heart attacks, 62 reports of cardiac arrhythmia, 91 reports of hypertension, 69 strokes, and 70 seizures. Complaints to the FDA about ephedra made up 42 percent of all dietary supplement complaints and 59 percent of all reported deaths.
In February, the 23-year-old pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, Steve Bechler, who had been taking an ephedra product (Xenadrine RFA-1), died of heatstroke in Florida spring training. On March 13, 2003, Broward County medical examiner Dr. Joshua Perper said that toxicology tests confirmed that “significant amounts” of the over-the-counter supplement containing ephedra led to the heatstroke, along with other factors. Following this incident, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed new labels for ephedra products that would list death, heart attacks, and strokes as possible side effects. Last year, California passed a statute that bans the sale of ephedra to minors and requires warning labels on such products.
“The FDA’s failure to ban this product is derelict and demands more stringent state and local legislative action,” said Odabashian. “It’s time to get ephedra off the shelves in California to prevent further deaths and injuries.”
See Consumers Union’s letter to the Assembly Health Committee on SB 582.

Elisa Odabashian or Michael McCauley
Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, is an independent, nonprofit testing and information organization, serving only the consumer. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health, nutrition, and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public, and protect consumers.