Ephedra is the main active ingredient of Ma Huang, an herb that has been used for thousands of years to alleviate symptoms of asthma, upper respiratory infection, nasal and chest congestion, and to increase metabolism.
The Food and Drug Administration, citing a TOTAL of 155 deaths that have been LINKED to it, has banned all sales of it as of today, April 12, 2004.
The move marks the first time the government has outlawed a dietary supplement and will set a precedent for action against other "risky" products, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said. "For too long, dietary supplements containing (ephedra) have been heavily promoted and widely used. They are simply too "risky", Thomson said at a news conference.
Bush administration officials said several recent developments allowed them to take action against a substance that had been under scrutiny for at least six years.
The "dangers" of ephedra received widespread publicity with the death in February last year of Baltimore Orioles pitcher steve Bechler, whose fatal heatstroke was linked to the supplement by a medical examiner.
BUT THE FDA ADMITS ITSELF THAT THERE IS NO DEFINITIVE PROOF that ephedra caused Bechler's death or any other serious injury.
In the tens of articles about the ephedra ban that I read, I have yet to see any mention of the fact that ephedra - and all other herbal and dietary supplements COMBINED - have averaged LESS THAN FIVE CONFIRMED DEATHS over the past 25 years in the USA. Most of those relate to a single batch of genetically engineered tryptophan introduced in the late 1980's (Source, CDC/FDA).
-- 46 people die from aspirin every single day in the US alone.
--Properly researched, regulated, and prescribed drugs are the fourth most common cause of death. (Source, Journal of American Medical association - Range 90,00 to 160,000 deaths per year.)
--Food poisoning/adverse reactions causes between 5,000 to 9,000 deaths per year (Source, CDC)
--Greater than 26,000 times more people die from preventable medical misadventure and properly regulated, properly prescribed drugs than from dietary supplements.
The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most powerful forces in politics, and one of the biggest political contributors. With last years total sales of ephedra capsules topping 1.4 BILLION dollars in 2002, it's no wonder they're using their influence to limit US citizens from using natural herbs and plant extracts which cannot be trademarked and regulated by multibillion dollar corporations and the government.
Every gelcap filled with the powder of Ma Huang stems and roots is one less "ChemDiet" capsule sold, or one less SUDAFED (psuedo ephedrin).
This is a dangerous and foreboding step towards the administration and the FDA limiting our right to an increasing list of naturally occuring, relatively harmless substances.
At his news conference, Thompson said he believes congress should toughen the supplemental laws even more and require companies to do more to prove their products are safe.
In the time it took you to read this (2 minutes?), approximately 13 PEOPLE HAVE DIED due to doctor-prescribed prescription drugs around the world. That's almost 400 an hour, almost 10,000 a day.
Aren't there more important things the administration and the FDA should be concerned about?