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Canada Recalling Ephedrine Products

January 12, 2002|RAY HERNDON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As U.S. health experts worry about the rising use of ephedrine-based diet and energy products by teenage athletes, Canadian health authorities have initiated a nationwide voluntary recall of such products, saying they can cause strokes, heart attacks, even death.

The products, which are used by millions of Americans, have been implicated in the deaths of more than 80 U.S. consumers and were a subject of controversy last year when they were linked to the deaths of two professional and two college football players.

Health Canada, which regulates drug sales in the country, said Thursday it was issuing letters to manufacturers, distributors and importers of such products requesting that they discontinue their sale within Canada and remove them from all levels of the market, including retail.

It also warned consumers to immediately stop using the supplements, and return them to the points of sale.

The recall targets all supplements containing caffeine or other stimulants in addition to ephedrine, as well as other ephedrine products having a single dose unit of more than eight milligrams of ephedrine or 32 milligrams a day, or whose recommended use exceeds seven days.

The Canadian initiative comes as a survey commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and made public this week found that a growing number of athletes reported using supplements containing ephedrine in high school. The survey of 21,225 NCAA student athletes found that of continued users, 58% reported using it in high school, compared to 34% in 1997.

"We have to pay attention to this," said Timothy P. Condon of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which funded the study.

The Canadian ban is stricter than one advanced--then withdrawn--by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration nearly four years ago. The FDA proposed single-dose limits of eight milligrams and 24 milligrams per day, but did not seek a ban of all ephedrine supplements containing caffeine or other stimulants.

The FDA withdrew its proposals amid attacks from the lucrative dietary supplement industry, and a critical report from a Congressional watchdog agency that found fault with the FDA dosing methodology.

The Canadian ban includes some of the best-known products in the United States--including the top-selling Metabolife 356, Metab-O-Lite, Ripped Fuel and Ripped Force--because they contain both ephedrine and caffeine.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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