Nutrition Research News
Supplements with Ephedra or Steroid Hormone Are Illegal for
Minors, Says California Legislature
In August 2002, the California legislature passed a bill on the
sale and labeling of dietary supplements that contain ephedra and
steroid hormone precursors. SB 1884 requires specific warning language,
the FDA MedWatch phone number, and a notice that the product is
not for use by individuals under the age of 18 years, on the label
of all dietary supplements containing ephedrine group alkaloids
(ephedra) or steroid hormone precursors, such as androstenedione
and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone).
The bill makes it a misdemeanor for any manufacturer, wholesaler,
retailer or other person to sell, transfer or otherwise furnish
a dietary supplement containing ephedrine group alkaloids or steroid
hormone precursors to persons under 18. This action comes on the
heels of a number of deaths and adverse effects attributed to the
use of supplements containing ephedra and anabolic steroids. The
adverse side-effects of supplements containing ephedra and anabolic
steroids account for 17 percent of all adverse events reported from
the use of dietary supplements - the highest percentage of any supplements.
Ephedra-containing supplements have been associated with sudden
death, stroke, seizures, and heart attacks, even in young people.
They commonly cause nervousness; anxiety; insomnia; palpitations;
arrhythmias; and other troublesome side-effects.
- National Nutritional Foods Association announcement, Sept. 5,
- MedWatch database (www.fda.gov/medwatch).
Americans May Soon Claim Dietary Supplement Purchases As a Tax
Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced
the Dietary Supplement Tax Fairness Act (S.1330) to Congress on
August 2, 2001. The bill would put self-care products, such as dietary
supplements, on a par with other medical care items, in that it
would provide an IRS deduction for consumers who purchase them (when
their total medical expenses exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross
income). Premiums paid for insurance covering supplement purchases
would also be deductible. The scientific panel of the Office of
Dietary Supplement Research deems the legislation a valuable tool
for the public health community by increasing the consumption of
Senator Harkin called the bill an effort to "advance sound health
care policy." He added: "Our current policy is unfair and is failing
to take full advantage of the potential to improve health and hold
down health care costs through preventive health care practices
available to consumers."
Senators Harkin and Hatch have been highly instrumental throughout
the last decade in helping to create awareness of the scientific
evidence indicating that nutritional supplementation may be a useful
intervention in the prevention and/or management of many chronic
degenerative diseases. Through their efforts, the Office of Alternative
Medicine was established in 1991 at the National Institutes of Health
(now the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
-- NCCAM). The two senators also introduced the Dietary Supplement
Health and Education Act, which has greatly improved consumer access
to nutritional supplements and to the scientific evidence to support
their safe and responsible use. In the words of Sen. Harkin, "Consumers
need ready access to high-quality, reliable information. They need
it and they are thirsting for it. And if it is done right, it will
improve health, extend lives and reduce health care costs by keeping
It is also interesting to note that the budget for the NCCAM rose
from $3 million to $50 million in four years. For the fiscal year
2000, its budget was $68.3 million; when added to the other research
initiatives undertaken by other institutions and centers in the
U.S., the total complementary and alternative medicine investment
in research and related activities was approximately $161 million
for the fiscal year 2001.
- NNFA Today 2002;16(8).
- Dietary Supplement Information Bureau, 2002.
James Meschino, DC, MS
Toronto, Ontario, Canada