Statement from New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Antonia C. Novello on National Ephedra Ban

I commend President George W. Bush for his decision to ban the sale of dietary supplements containing ephedra. Across the nation, these supplements have been implicated in serious health problems, yet few consumers are aware of the danger. I am proud that, with Governor George Pataki´s leadership, our State was among the first to ban the sale of most ephedra products. Now, with the President´s action, the protections we already have provided to New Yorkers will be extended to all Americans.

The tragic deaths of young athletes like Baltimore Orioles' pitching prospect Steve Bechler graphically demonstrate the dangers of ephedra. Ample evidence exists that ephedra can have potentially severe and even lethal effects on the nervous system and heart, especially when combined with strenuous physical activity, or taken with another stimulant, such as caffeine. Because ephedra is derived from an herb, many people think it promotes good health, but exactly the opposite can be true. All Americans deserve to know the truth about ephedra and its false and misleading promises of weight loss and performance enhancement.

Thanks to Governor Pataki and, now, President Bush, we have taken a significant step toward ensuring that a tragedy such as the death of Steve Bechler is never repeated. Too many tragedies have already occurred because of ephedra use-no other families should have to suffer the needless loss of a loved one. All New Yorkers should be grateful for the actions of our President and our Governor to better protect our citizens and, undoubtedly, save lives.