Ephedra's Dangers Downplayed on Internet

Many Web sites contain misleading advertising, researchers say

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THURSDAY, Aug. 14, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Some Web sites advertising products with the weight-loss supplement ephedra fail to disclose potential adverse effects and contain misleading information about the safety, use and efficacy of the products.

So claims a study in the August issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

By misleading consumers about products that contain ephedra, these Web sites may be violating truth-in-advertising standards, the study suggests. The authors call for major reforms in the way ephedra is marketed.

"In our study, we clearly document the need to change the way ephedra products are advertised," senior author Dr. Bimal Ashar, an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says in a news release.

He adds that since the study was written, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has taken steps to investigate whether tighter regulations are necessary for ephedra products. Hypertension, fast heart rate, anxiety, palpitations, stroke and psychosis are among the known serious side effects caused by ephedra.

Ashar and his colleagues evaluated 32 Web sites that sell ephedra products and found the majority of them failed to meet U.S. Federal Trade Commission advertising standards that require advertisers to substantiate marketing claims and disclose potential safety issues.

Specifically, the researchers found 13 of the Web sites failed to disclose potential adverse side effects or contraindications to supplement use; 17 sites didn't reveal the dosage of ephedra alkaloids; and 11 sites contained incorrect or misleading statements that could result in serious harm to consumers.

Many of the Web sites had ads that claimed certain products containing ephedra caused no adverse side effects. Two of the sites even claimed certain dietary supplements with ephedra could be used to treat specific diseases. Under federal regulations, that's a claim they're not allowed to make.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about ephedra.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, Aug. 12, 2003

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