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Feds take actions against ephedra products

Illinois fired the first volley against ephedra. Now the feds have gotten into the act.

The Federal Trade Commission announced in early July it would take action against three companies that market diet or weight-loss pills containing ephedra.

All three cases involved what the FTC calls deceptive claims regarding the effectiveness, safety and lack of side effects.

Ephedra is an herbal supplement frequently marketed as an “energy booster” or weight-loss aid. According to HealthScout, it is linked to almost 100 deaths, including high school, college and professional athletes who have collapsed during games or practice.

The agency settled with Health Laboratories of North America Inc. of Scottsdale, AZ, the maker of Berry Trim Plus, and USA Pharmacal Sales Inc. of Palm Harbor, FL, the maker of the Meta-Biological weight-loss product. Both firms were ordered to stop making false claims and to add warning labels about the health risks associated with the supplements. Both agreed to pay between $150,000 and $200,000 to compensate consumers. In both cases, the fines could increase into the millions if the companies misrepresent or omit anything on their financial statements.

In the third case, the FTC’s complaint against three companies — Bentley Myers International Co., based in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Publisher’s Data Services Inc. and Nutritional Life Inc., both of Beverly Hills, CA — was passed on to the Department of Justice to be pursued in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Those companies produced supplements called Zymax and MillinexES.

In late May, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a measure that bans the sale of pills containing ephedra. Under the new law, all over-the-counter sales of ephedra would be banned except in products that receive approval from the Secretary of Health and Human Services.