The Food and Drug Administration announced on Tuesday a ban on the sale of ephedra, an herbal supplement used for weight loss that has been linked to a number of deaths and harmful side effects. Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson said that "based on the best possible scientific evidence," his agency would issue a consumer alert about the dangers of ephedra and will send notices to manufacturers to stop selling the herbs. "They are just too risky to use," he said. The ban will take effect in 60 days.
Mark McClellan, head of the FDA, said his agency is notifying consumers and manufacturers that it will publish a rule making it illegal to sell and use ephedra. He said the agency was concerned about young people and athletes looking to ephedra to boost their performance, to lose weight, or to assist in building muscle. "Ephedra raises your blood pressure and stresses your system," McClellan said. "There are far better, safer ways to get in shape."
More than 150 deaths nationwide have been blamed on ephedra, including former Baltimore Orioles baseball player Steve Bechler, who died earlier this year. Ephedra is linked to heart attacks and strokes, even when used by healthy people at recommended doses, because it speeds heart rate and constricts blood vessels. The states of New York, Illinois, and California already have banned the sale of ephedra because of its health risks.