U.S. lawmakers said Thursday that subpoenas would be issued to two former Metabolife International Inc. executives and one current employee to testify at a hearing on the controversial diet supplement ephedra.
Government officials have warned consumers not to take ephedra because of risks of side effects including death, heart attacks and strokes.
The Food and Drug Administration is considering requiring a warning label on all ephedra products.
Metabolife, a privately held company based in San Diego, is a leading maker of supplements containing ephedra, an herbal stimulant that has been marketed as a weight-loss aid.
Rep. W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-La.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, signed the subpoenas "and expects them to be issued as quickly as possible" to Michael Ellis, David Brown and Daniel Rodriguez, said Ken Johnson, Tauzin's spokesman.
Ellis is founder, co-owner and former president of Metabolife. Brown also is a former president. Rodriguez is a current employee, Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden said.
The panel wants the individuals to testify at a July 23 hearing on ephedra.
Metabolife spokeswoman Jan Strode said the company had cooperated with the committee. She said the company's chief executive, Russell Schreck, would testify at the hearing.
"Metabolife will continue to make appropriate company officials available for congressional testimony," Strode said.
Makers including Metabolife insist that ephedra is safe when taken as directed and helps people lose weight.
Walden said that the subcommittee sent letters to Ellis, Brown and Rodriguez requesting their appearance at the July 23 hearing, but that they turned down the requests through their lawyers.
"They have completely stonewalled us at this point. They have refused to testify publicly," Johnson said.
Efforts to reach an attorney for Brown for comment were not successful.