Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Next Ephedra is Ephedra?

[Note: Adapted from an article which originally appeared in Natural Products INSIDER Supplement Perspectives]

It would seem so based on recent ads in the musclehead magazines.

In a recent issue of one mag, there are double-page ad spreads from a company that one would think has had enough enforcement actions against it to last several lifetimes. The ads feature images and cartoons of women who look either like Vegas strippers or hookers along with ad language screaming that these products have 25 mg of ephedra extract, but with caveats that say "we're not breaking the law, folks; these things are perfectly legal."

The only way these products could not be in direct and flagrant violation of the law is if: 1.) they are not dietary supplements but are instead special classes of OTC remedies (which they are not); or 2.) the so-called ephedra is not really ephedra but some other botanical.

Well, there are a few big problems here. If the main active is not ephedra, then the FTC could slam the company for false and deceptive advertising and for claiming their products have a banned ingredient. If the flagship ingredient is ephedra, well the enforcement pathway on that is pretty clear!

If, however, the so-called ephedra extract is actually derived from the Acacia rigidula plant (as one of the ads suggests), it may not contain ephedra alkaloids but it may well contain methamphetamine, mescaline and nicotine, not the safest profile, to say the very least.

Seeing these ads really got me mad, and I wound up calling Marc Ullman, who was equally incensed. I sent these ads to the FTC, FDA and the USDA import-export officials, in addition to copying the trade associations.

Precisely because the vast majority of supplement manufacturers are responsible and ethical, it behooves us as an industry to do everything we can to not only protect consumers from misinformation and harm but to also shine a light on gray-market profiteers who are taking advantage of the DSHEA regulatory pathway yet whose products are merely masquerading as nutritional supplements.

It’s hard for us to stand tall when these bottom-feeders are muddying the waters for all of us.

There have been astounding advances in athletic-performance-related nutritional research along with the introduction of powerful, science-based sports supplements, but until we call out, shame and shun these jokers, we will have our treadmill set to “uphill” for a long time.

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