Knock Knock. Who's There? Ephedrine . . . Again?

It's back! 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 aid.

Some Basic Preliminary Info That Bears Addressing:

  • 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" as ephedrine.
  • 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 best sellers.

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 did.

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 drugs.

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."

Related Pages:

Ephedrine . . . the Other Side of "Fat Burning"
Ephedra-Free Fat Burners
Fat Burners

Metabolism Boosters



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