A law banning the sale of most ephedra products in our state, which went into effect recently, will make our families safer (A.6921/S.3294-B; Laws of New York 2003, Chapter 385). I supported the law because it will help protect our families from a drug that poses serious health risks to those who use it.
Before the passage of this law, ephedra products such as Ultimate Xphoria – the drug which killed Peter Schlendorf, a 20-year-old SUNY Albany student – were sold throughout New York as a dietary supplement used to speed up metabolism for weight loss and increased muscle mass.
Peter’s death was not the only tragedy caused by ephedra products. In 2002 Steve Bechler – a prospective pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles – collapsed during spring training and later died of a stroke attributed in part to ephedra use.
The harmful effects of ephedra have been well documented. Seizures, heart attacks and death can result from use of this substance. The American Heart Association has stated that the documented side-effects are the tip of the iceberg, and has pushed the FDA to ban the sale of ephedra products nationally.
Although ephedra has been linked to nearly 2,000 cases of health problems in the last decade, the FDA was prevented from regulating it because of the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act of 1994. DSHEA has allowed manufacturers of ephedra products to promote this harmful drug without government safety reviews because it is labeled as a supplement.
This dangerous loophole has now been closed in New York. The new law bans the sale of dietary supplements containing ephedra in the state, except for non-prescription over-the-counter drugs approved or regulated by the FDA and those sold or dispersed by a licensed or certified practitioner of acupuncture.
The American Heart Association has applauded the new law because it addresses their concern that ephedra products are available to consumers without FDA approval and oversight.
The Assembly has recognized ephedra as a public health threat, and took the necessary steps to combat this potentially deadly drug. This important new law will protect New Yorkers and ultimately save lives.