California Governor Davis Signs Legislation to Label Dietary Supplements Linked to Deaths

SACRAMENTO, CA -- Governor Gray Davis has signed two bills to require label warnings on products containing the herbal dietary supplement ephedra, which have been linked to as many as 54 deaths across the nation.

SB 1884 by Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) requires that labels of dietary supplements containing ephedrine display specific warnings and the toll-free number for consumers to report adverse reactions of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) adverse events reporting program and would prohibit the sale of these products to individuals under 18 years old.

SB 1948 by Sen. Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont), a companion bill to SB 1884, will require warning labels on dietary supplements to be clear and conspicuous.

"I vetoed a similar bill two years ago citing the need for federal regulatory action. It was my expectation that the federal government would take a more aggressive regulatory approach toward this substance," said Gov. Davis. "While regulation of dietary supplements and interstate commerce is the responsibility of the federal government, Californians can't wait for federal action that is too long overdue."

In June, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson ordered a review of reports on the adverse effects of ephedra. On August 16, 2002, Gov. Davis directed California Department of Health Services Director Dr. Diana Bonta, to send a letter to the FDA requesting aggressive action to regulate the sale or inform the public of the possible health risks associated with products containing ephedra.

The federal government has failed to act, leading Gov. Davis to sign the two bills.

To the Members of the California Legislature:

I am signing Senate Bill 1884. SB 1884 would require that labels of dietary supplements containing ephedrine alkaloids or steroid hormone precursors list the quantity of ephedrine alkaloids from herbal abstracts, specific warnings, and the federal Food and Drug Administration’s Medwatch number, and would prohibit sales of these supplements to minors.

I vetoed a similar bill two years ago citing the need for federal regulatory action. It was my expectation that the federal government would take a more aggressive regulatory approach toward this substance. Ephedra has been linked to adverse health effects and, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, at least 54 deaths. SB 1884 would protect minors from the health risks of dietary supplements containing ephedrine alkaloids and would provide consumers with a reliable resource for reporting adverse reactions.

In June, United States Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson ordered a review of reports on the adverse effects of ephedra. Because of this inadequate response on the part of the federal government, on August 16, 2002, I directed the State Director of the Department Health Services to send a letter to the FDA requesting aggressive action to regulate the sale or inform the public of the possible health risks associated with this product. They have declined to do so.

While regulation of dietary supplements and interstate commerce is the responsibility of the Federal government, Californians can’t wait forever for federal action that is already long overdue.

In signing this legislation, I am also relying on a letter from Senator Speier dated September 18, 2002, which further explains that the bill does not affect the definition of "anabolic steroids" as that term is used in the Civil Code law or under any other provision of state law.

Sincerely,

GRAY DAVIS

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