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Illinois Lawmakers Look to Ban Ephedrine

Mar 4, 2003 | The Daily Illini Illinois lawmakers might make Illinois the first state to completely ban the sale and purchase of products containing ephedrine.

Ephedrine alkaloids are found in dietary supplements such as Metabolife 356 and Yellow Jackets. They are used to accelerate weight loss and enhance feelings of energy, according to University kinesiology professor Jeffrey Woods. Ephedrine acts as a stimulant to the nervous and cardiovascular systems, and its actions are similar to those of adrenaline and epinephrine, he said.

State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, said he decided to co-sponsor the bill after hearing the story of a 16-year-old Lincoln, Ill., wrestler who died on his couch last year after taking Yellow Jackets.

State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, said after receiving letters from constituents who were concerned about the side effects of ephedra, the substance containing ephedrine, she felt the issue needed immediate attention. She said 18,000 problems with the drug have been reported, including shakes, seizures and more serious side effects.

“I think the FDA needs to take it off the market so we don’t have to do this state by state,” she said.

Mitchell said 21 other states already have restrictions on the buying and selling of ephedra.

Ephedra Education Council spokesman Richard Price said products containing ephedrine should continue to be available because they are “helping to treat the obesity epidemic in this country.”

Price said while people under 18 should not purchase or use products containing ephedrine, the council is opposed to any kind of legal ban on the products.

Metabolife International, Inc., manufacturer of Metabolife 356, said in a Feb. 28 press release that they have urged the Food and Drug Administration to adopt strict dosage limitations and more detailed warning labels for products containing ephedrine. The press release said ephedra drugs are safe if they are not abused.

Mitchell said he disagrees with drug companies’ claims that ephedra is safe if taken as directed.

“Young people dropping dead have proved that wrong,” he said.

Mitchell said 21 other states already have restrictions on ephedra. Illinois’ Ephedra Protection Act, if signed into law, could take effect as soon as this summer.

Woods said the International Olympic Committee and the National College Athletic Association have banned the use of ephedra for their athletes, and professional sports teams are now grappling with the issue in light of the recent death of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bachler.

A first-time violation of the act would be a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and up to a year in jail, Feigenholtz said.

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