Ephedra Ban to Affect Local Retailers - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

12/31/03

Ephedra Ban to Affect Local Retailers

The New Year is right around the corner and that means it's time for your New Year's resolutions. But, if you're trying to lose weight, you'll have to do it without ephedra. The Federal Drug Administration has banned the controversial diet drug. Ephedra, taken by many to help lose weight quickly, has been linked to heart problems, strokes, and in some cases, death. Like that of a 23-year-old Baltimore Orioles pitcher last spring.

Ephedra is all over the shelves at health food and vitamin stores. It's one of the most popular weight loss and performance enhancing supplements at Nature's Pantry in Savannah. "I'm sure there's going be a lot of people who stock up on ephedra cause they have used it so safely and effectively in the past," said owner Mark Lynn.

Lynn says when the FDA ban goes into effect, he and all the other supplement stores will be pulling anything with ephedra--sometimes labeled ma waung--from the shelves within 60 days. "Ma waung is the Chinese name for the herb ephedra, which is the English name," he explained.

The FDA says the supplement is too dangerous to be sold any more. "Ephedra raises your blood pressure and stresses your system," said FDA director Dr. Mark McClellan. "These effects have been conclusively linked to serious heart problems, strokes and death. These are exactly the problems weight loss is supposed to prevent, but ephedra appears to cause them."

Lynn doesn't necessarily agree. He believes these problems occur when the product is abused. "I think it's mainly the people with preexisting health conditions that abused the product that are causing all this trauma and drama with it," he said.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to have this final ruling in the next two to three weeks. And then stores are asked to stop selling the drug as soon as possible.

Reported by: Kim Angelastro, kangelastro@wtoc.com

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