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State Senate Approves Ephedra Ban

May 13, 2003 | Sacramento Bee Dealing another blow to the weight-loss supplement ephedra, the state Senate on Monday voted to ban the substance in California.

SB582, which prohibits the sale or distribution of dietary supplements containing ephedrine group alkaloids, now faces Assembly approval. The bill, by Sen. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, cleared the Senate on a 24-14 vote.

"You talk to any of the scientists who have done studies on it ... and to a person they will say it is inappropriate to be in the marketplace as a food," she said.

Speier said that since the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate the content or appropriate dosage of supplements, using them is a "buyer beware" proposition. Given what she called significant health risks, she said the time for regulation is over.

Ephedra supporters say the product can be used safely if dosage recommendations are followed. They maintain that while current scientific research does support national warning labels it does not justify banning the product.

Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, who opposed the bill, said California should wait for federal action and that a state ban would be ineffective. "If people want the product, they are going to get it," he said, pointing out the bill would not stop mail order or Internet sales.

Speier said the time for waiting has passed and that California should lead by example.

The FDA moved closer to slapping warning labels on products containing ephedra in February, just weeks after a Baltimore Orioles pitcher's death was linked to ephedra use.

Pitcher Steve Bechler's death came about a year after that of Minnesota Vikings lineman Korey Stringer. Stringer's family has filed a $100 million wrongful-death lawsuit, claiming ephedra played a role in his death.

A growing number of studies have linked the stimulant to health problems such as heart attack, stroke and even death.

The growing concern has prompted some diet supplement makers to remove ephedra from their products, replacing it with another stimulant, a Speier aide said.

Last year, California preempted the FDA by outlawing the sale of ephedra to children and started requiring warning labels.

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