The Ephedra Education Council (EEC) has responded to yesterday's news that as many as one third of the US population now suffers from obesity with a statement promoting the safety and efficacy of the dietary supplement ephedra.
The news came from a study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this week.
Wes Siegner, general counsel to the Ephedra Education Council, said in a statement: "The herbal supplement Ephedra is one of the few options for consumers who want to manage their weight successfully but cannot do so with diet and exercise alone. The Ephedra Education Council's mission is to provide factual information about dietary supplements containing Ephedra and promote the safe and responsible marketing of dietary supplements."
He continued that the council website provided clinical studies and other information supporting the safety and weight loss benefits of the products.
"Ephedra has a long history of safe, non-prescription use. However, reports of adverse events associated with the use of Ephedra have raised concerns in the United States. Regulatory agencies and some members of Congress are now considering restricting the use of these products. The adverse event reports are anecdotal, not scientific. To date, there have been over 50 scientific studies on Ephedra or ephedrine use without reports of serious adverse events," maintained Siegner.
He also said that although some critics have asserted that dietary supplements such as Ephedra are unregulated, this is not the case. "Extensive requirements regulating product quality and product claims are in effect, and industry supports vigorous enforcement of these requirements."
"Consumers should be able to continue to use Ephedra dietary supplements to help them maintain and manage their weight. The CDC report in the Journal of the American Medical Association is one more wake-up call about the increasing prevalence of obesity and, by implication, its serious health effects, for all Americans."
The statement follows a call earlier this week from supplement maker Metabolife International, that the Food and Drug Administration should exert its powers to provide strong regulation of products which contain ephedra.
Earlier in the year Metabolife was asked by the US Food and Drug Administration to release health reports gathered by its consumer Healthline, following claims that it had not disclosed a large number of reports on ephedra's side effects.
In testimony before a congressional subcommittee on Tuesday, Lanny J. Davis, an attorney for Metabolife, said: "We need FDA to stringently draft and enforce science-based regulations of Ephedra that protect the public health and preserve consumer choice."
He said that Metabolife wanted to see several actions, including a ban on promoting Ephedra products as "street drug" alternatives, a ban on the sale of Ephedra products to children under 18 years of age, a ban on the sale of supplements containing synthetic ephedrine alkaloids, the adoption of stringent GMPs for all dietary supplement manufacturers (to include batch testing), a mandatory warning label, and adoption of science-based serving limits to ensure safe use of Ephedra products. The creation of a new mandatory industry-wide reporting system was also urged.
"We have very strong science - more than 30 studies and reports - demonstrating the safety and effectiveness of these products. The recent study published in the prestigious International Journal of Obesity by researchers at Columbia University and Harvard Medical College underscores the point that Ephedra does help people lose weight without any significant adverse effects," Davis concluded.The American Medical Association (AMA) however remained unconvinced and testified that ephedra holds considerable dangers for consumers.
"The AMA urges the FDA to remove dietary supplements containing ephedra from the market," said AMA Trustee Ron Davis, MD. "The risk/benefit ratio for these products is unacceptable."
"The AMA concurs with the National Institutes of Health guidelines for obesity treatment that say certain prescription drugs may be useful in some obese patients, but diet aids containing ephedra are not recommended for weight loss. And because of ephedra's effects on the cardiovascular and central nervous systems, it may cause cardiac arrhythmias, heart attacks, strokes, seizures and sudden death in both previously healthy people, as well as in those with risk factors for these conditions," he said before Congress on Tuesday.
The Ephedra Education Council is supported primarily by members of the Ephedra Committee of the American Herbal Products Association, a US dietary supplement trade body.