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California Legislature Passes Ephedra Ban

Monday, September 8, 2003
Elisa Odabashian: 415-431-6747

Assembly Vote Sends Ephedra Ban Bill (SB 582) to Governor Davis

SACRAMENTO, CA – The California Assembly today approved a ban on the sale of dietary supplements containing ephedra. A virtually identical version of SB 582, introduced by Senator Jackie Speier, already has been approved by the California Senate. Once the Senate adopts the Assembly-passed version as expected, the bill will go to Governor Davis for his consideration. Similar bans of the controversial weight loss supplement have already been enacted in Illinois and New York.
“California lawmakers have made it clear that they are tired of waiting for the federal government to take action to protect consumers from hazardous dietary supplements containing ephedra,” said Elisa Odabashian, Senior Policy Analyst for Consumers Union’s West Coast Regional Office. “We urge Governor Davis to sign this legislation because we believe that ephedra supplements offer very limited benefits while putting consumers at risk to some very serious health problems.”
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 related to dietary supplements.
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.
“We applaud California lawmakers for protecting California consumers by supporting a state ban on ephedra,” said Odabashian. “Given the FDA’s failure to ban these dangerous dietary supplements, it’s time for California to act.”

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