Knock. Who's There? Ephedrine . . . Again?
Or is it? National Press Releases on April 14, 2005, spurred
headlines such as "Federal Judge Brings Back Ephedra,"
and "the FDA is powerless to stop new Ephedra sales."
Those headlines are exaggerations at best, so allow me to
help you understand precisely what's taking place in regard
to this stimulant compound that found infamy as a weight loss
Some Basic Preliminary Info That
- The FDA gave the supplement
companies more than fair warning before "pulling ephedra."
- All of the top selling fat burner
manufacturers prepared ephedra-free formulas and
most managed to keep the brand names moving.
- In terms of "weight loss"
(not necessarily long term healthful fat loss), none of
the replacement compounds proved as "effective"
- Although people perceived ephedrine
was deemed illegal, it wasn't. Even after the 2204 FDA ruling,
ephedrine HCl was sold over the counter in products promising
alleviation of bronchial constriction. Primatene Tablets
have continued to sell, each tablet containing 12.5 mg.
of ephedrine, and other products such as Vasopro combined
ephedrine with Guaifenesin, a compound used to thin the
mucus in the air passages and makes it easier to clear the
airway. The reality is Primatene Tables + Robitussin = Vasopro.
By adding ingredients that position an ephedrine product
as a "bronchial relief aid," clever marketers
were able to continue to sell the "banned" products
under different labels.
Now that you have a few of the
facts, I'll share an opinion.
I don't personally think ephedrine
should be illegal. I simply think there should be accuracy
in advertising and I also believe the consumer should have
a resource for understanding the true benefit-to-risk ratio
when considering any questionable product. Once ephedrine
was perceived as "illegal," it became a hot commodity
on the grey market and ultimately the black market.
The weird nature of human beings
who are affected by advertising and chemically impacted by
the use of stimulants (people who bought into the "miracle
weight loss" ads and actually used ephedrine enough to
compromise adrenal function) somehow leads them to believe
"if the government took it away, it must work!"
I won't get into the specifics
of ephedrine here, as I've done that at length in my article,
"Ephedrine . . . the Other Side
of Fat Burning." Instead I'll simply help you understand
why ephedrine's been launched back into the news.
The Real Story
Neutraceutical International Corporation
is one of many companies that were impacted by the FDA decision
to stop the sale of ephedrine in fat burning supplements.
When you recognize that the addictive compound ephedrine had
12,000,000 users when the "ban" hit, you can begin
to recognize the potentially disastrous monetary impact these
companies experienced. The figurative brakes were put on their
When we hear that a Federal judge
intervened to declare a previous decision "wrong,"
we want to believe some action is being taken for the good
of "the people." Sometimes we have to look a bit
closer to recognize agendas.
If, in fact, scientists and consumer
groups acting on behalf of the health and well being of our
population uncovered evidence that brought about a reversal
of a decision that might have been made prematurely, we should
certainly embrace the re-consideration. If, however, the questions
are re-opened initiated by those who may have more of a monetary
interest than a humanitarian one, we have to question intentions
and whether or not the decision may have been a biased action.
People did suffer strokes, brain
damage, and death from ephedrine. Were some of them at risk
before taking the drug compound? Sure. Did some use "too
much?" Sure. But remember, I'm not a proponent of the
law controlling ephedra, I'm in favor of educating consumers.
Whether it's legal, illegal, banned, or simply perceived to
be banned, it will continue to attach to an allure that lulls
people into believing it's the closest thing to a magic pill.
It isn't. It's a stimulant that has been overhyped and in
some cases abused. With that said, the court action doesn't
suggest that ephedrine is any safer than it was previously.
It just examined whether or not, based on the present laws,
the FDA rightfully had the power to negatively impact the
revenue generation of supplement sellers in the manner they
So back to Neutraceutical . . .
this Utah company initiated the court action and the judge,
Judge Tena Campbell, agreed that ephedra was wrongully being
controlled by the FDA as if it were a drug. In the health
food stores and the mail order ads it was being sold as a
supplement . . . . . and according to a 1994 decision, prompted
by Senator Hatch (the "Hatch Law"), supplements
with herbal compounds should be regulated as foods, not as
In the case of legally defined
"drugs," the FDA requires that the drug manufacturer
prove a product is safe. In the case of foods, the FDA is
only authorized to pull something if it's proven unsafe. "Proof"
is difficult as an absolute. The FDA provided evidence of
risk, but it comes down to a judgement call as to whether
or not "evidence" is sufficient as definitive proof.
The bottom line is, nothing has
changed in terms of ephedrine's safety. The people who died
have not been "cured," the people who suffered irreversible
brain damage have not recovered, and without adequate education,
misuse and abuse of a potentially harmful compound sold as
a panacea are inevitable.
I've seen the politics play out
over ephedrine with financial interest as the driving motivator.
Neutraceutical, the company that
initiated the actions leading to Judge Campbells decision,
has a signicant stake in this. You might never have heard
of this company, but it might merit a short listing of some
the of the brand names they produce: KAL, Solaray, Nature's
Life, Natural Max, Action Labs, and Thompson . . . and that's
an abbreviated list.
The day after the decision, I received
six emails from internet wholesalers saying "ephedrine's
back," and offering "great deals." I think
this will continue to play out in the court systems, but from
where I sit it's purely political. Regardless of the decisions
made regarding the legality of the substance, I will continue
to alert my customers and clients of the risks and do everything
possible to help them make educated decisions with a complete
understanding of the available "evidence."
. . . the Other Side of "Fat Burning"
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