In a ceremonial bill signing Nov. 3, New York Gov. George Pataki publicly approved legislation banning the sale of ephedra in most forms in New York.
The public signing was attended by Baltimore Orioles vice president Mike Flanagan, who was present in February when Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler collapsed and later died from ephedra-induced heatstroke.
The governor actually had signed the ban into law on Aug. 19 and the ban took effect on Oct. 19.
Dietary supplements containing ephedra are now prohibited, and a $500 fine is to be levied for each violation against anybody who knowingly violates the ban.
Exceptions allow ephedra to be included in nonprescription drugs which are regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration and for the sale of ma huang by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture. Ma haung, the herb ephedra is derived from, is an important element in these practices.
The principle active ingredient in ephedra is ephedrine. When it is chemically synthesized ephedrine is regulated as a drug.
Research has shown that severe side effects, including death, can occur with ephedra use, especially when combined with strenuous physical activity, or taken with another stimulant, such as caffeine.
A recent Rand Corp. study concluded that ephedra is associated with higher risks of side effects such as heart palpitations, psychiatric and upper gastrointestinal effects, tremors and insomnia, the governor’s office said.
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