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Sen. Schumer Urges Ban On Ephedra

Mar 2, 2003 | AP

Sen. Charles Schumer said Sunday that he will support legislation to ban ephedra, the dietary supplement that has been linked to at least 100 deaths including that of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler.

Schumer, D-N.Y., said the Food and Drug Administration's move Friday to put warning labels on ephedra and consider restricting or banning its sale at a later time did not go far enough.

"I think we've seen enough evidence to know the danger," Schumer said. "We don't need more public comment, we need action. We must act now to ban ephedra."

The FDA said it has not compiled enough proof of the danger of ephedra, used for weight loss and as an athletic performance booster, to stand up in court under a 1994 law that limits federal safety oversight of dietary supplements.

But Schumer said he would co-sponsor legislation to be introduced this week by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., to ban ephedra outright.

"The evidence is clear and compelling," he said at a news conference in his Manhattan office. "Use of ephedra has resulted in dozens if not hundreds of strokes, heart attacks, and deaths."

Schumer said consumers should also be wary of "ephedra copycats" that may be equally hazardous.

In a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson and Commissioner of Food and Drugs Dr. Mark McClellan, Schumer wrote, "As people switch from ephedra to alternatives that make similar promises and work in similar ways, we must act now to prevent similarly tragic and widespread consequences."

The FDA has been under pressure from doctors for years to ban the herb, but Bechler's death last month renewed the scrutiny.

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