Davis Calls for Greater Federal Oversight of Ephedra, Says He Supports State Regulatory Legislation
Gov. Gray Davis (D) on Friday sent a letter to the FDA "demanding that [it] take action to investigate complaints" about the safety of the herbal supplement ephedra, adding that he supports state legislation (SB 1750) to ban the sale of ephedra to minors, the Los Angeles Times reports (Morain, Los Angeles Times, 8/17). Davis' announcement came a day after reports that the Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into whether San Diego-based Metabolife International, the nation's largest manufacturer of ephedra, made false statements to the FDA regarding reports on side effects associated with the product (California Healthline, 8/16). The announcement reverses Davis' position on regulating the drug; two years ago, he vetoed a bill that would have required strong warning labels on ephedra products. Supporters of the legislation accused Davis then of "bow[ing]" to pressure from Metabolife, which had contributed more than $100,000 to his campaign (Yamamura, Sacramento Bee, 8/17). The letter to the FDA criticized the agency for not doing enough to protect consumers from possible side effects of ephedra, a weight loss supplement taken by about 12 million Americans. There has been a "long-running medical debate" over whether ephedra causes heart attacks, strokes and death, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Gledhill, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/17).
Davis said he would sign the ephedra regulation bill, which has passed the Senate and is currently pending in the Assembly, if the FDA does not take "significant immediate action" in regulating ephedra. The bill, which was proposed by Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough), would ban sales of ephedra to minors, require ephedra labels to provide the FDA's toll-free number for reporting health problems and mandate that retailers check the identification of anyone purchasing ephedra who appears to be under 18 (Sacramento Bee, 8/17). The legislation is opposed by industry groups, including the Ephedra Education Council of the American Herbal Products Association (Ainsworth, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/17). Dr. Diana Bonta, director of the Department of Health Services, said that Davis had planned to write a letter to the FDA before it announced its criminal investigation, adding, "There was no switch here. The governor would much prefer that the FDA regulate this, rather than have each state create policy in this area." She said that a lack of federal action forced Davis to become involved (Sacramento Bee, 8/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.