WARNING VS. EPHEDRINE IN HERBAL CAPSULES  

Manila, Feb. 24, 2003 -- Senate majority leader Loren Legarda has cautioned the public against the use of herbal capsules that contain traces of the banned stimulant ephedrine, one of the main ingredients in the manufacture of shabu.

Legarda, an officer of the Citizens' DrugWatch Foundation, warned that ephedrine-laced herbal capsules are being promoted as "energizers" or "dietary supplements" and reportedly widely used in the US, where they can be bought over the counter.

Legarda said the controversial drug is particularly popular among athletes and "weight watchers." It has been linked to deaths among professional and amateur athletes in the US who succumbed to "ephedrine toxicity," she said.

"Consumers should be more careful the next time they buy herbal supplements, particularly the imported ones. In the US, some herbal capsules sold OTC actually indicate in their product labels that they contain up to 20 milligrams of ephedrine," Legarda said.

"Ephedrine is a powerful stimulant. It can be hazardous to both young people and seniors who have heart conditions, or are hypertensive, because the drug elevates blood pressure," Legarda said.

Ephedrine can keep one active and awake for long hours and at the same time suppress one's appetite. This explains why herbal capsules laced with the drug are also popular among those who want to lose weight.

"The problem with these herbal supplements is that many of them are not strictly classified as drugs, and therefore do not necessarily undergo scrutiny and licensing by our Bureau of Food and Drugs," Legarda said.

Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are classified by the Philippine Dangerous Drugs Board as "controlled precursors of narcotic drugs" that may not be sold OTC.

Drugs containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine may only be sold with a special prescription from a DDB accredited physician.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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