Union Tribune

November 7, 2003

U.S. ban urged for ephedra products


WASHINGTON Rep. Susan Davis yesterday introduced a resolution calling on the Food and Drug Administration to outlaw the sale of ephedra-based diet pills, which some doctors blame for strokes, seizures and heart attacks.

The dietary supplement promoted as a way to help people lose weight and enhance workouts by revving up the body's metabolism has been sold by several companies, including market leader Metabolife International of San Diego.

Although Gov. Gray Davis last month signed legislation outlawing the sale of ephedra-based products in California, Susan Davis, a San Diego Democrat, and several other lawmakers are pushing for the FDA to outlaw the products nationwide.

Davis' resolution is nonbinding, but it is designed to put pressure on the Bush administration to take tougher action. A similar resolution was introduced at the same time in the Senate by Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin and Arizona Republican John McCain.

The lawmakers hope to schedule a vote before Congress adjourns this year.

"I encourage the FDA to use its present authority to safeguard our loved ones from the risk of unregulated and untested dietary supplements," said Davis, who last week introduced a separate bill that would give the FDA greater regulatory authority over all companies that sell dietary supplements. "Our families depend on it."

The FDA already is considering regulations on ephedra-based products, including a possible ban. Medical studies have linked products containing ephedra an herbal stimulant to seizures, strokes and fatal heart attacks.

An FDA official, who requested anonymity, said the agency still is weighing thousands of public comments and consumer health complaints related to ephedra, as well as medical literature, "so that we have a comprehensive basis for taking further action."

When Davis was a state assemblywoman, she unsuccessfully championed a California ban on ephedra. A bill she introduced last week with two other House Democrats would require, among other things, that companies making dietary supplements send the FDA reports about the adverse effects their products may cause.

Metabolife and other ephedra companies have said that their products are safe when used as directed.

The Justice Department investigated Metabolife over allegations that it withheld reports about problems with ephedra-based products. Although Metabolife still markets its ephedra product, it and