Dietary Supplements Containing Ephedra: Health Risks and FDA's Oversight

GAO-03-1042T Published: Jul 23, 2003. Publicly Released: Jul 23, 2003.
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Dietary supplements containing ephedra have been associated with serious health-related adverse events, including heart attacks, strokes, seizures, and deaths. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dietary supplements under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). Reports of adverse events have been received by FDA and others, including Metabolife International, the manufacturer of a dietary supplement containing ephedra, Metabolife 356. Because of concerns surrounding the safety of dietary supplements containing ephedra, GAO was asked to discuss and update some of the findings from its prior work on ephedra, including its examination of Metabolife International's records of health-related calls from consumers of Metabolife 356. Specifically, GAO examined (1) FDA's analysis of the adverse event reports it received for dietary supplements containing ephedra, (2) how the adverse events reported in the health-related call records collected by Metabolife International illustrate the health risks of dietary supplements containing ephedra, and (3) FDA's actions in the oversight of dietary supplements containing ephedra.

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