Sellers: Ephedra ban won’t hurt business

Many supplements, like Thermal Cut, had ephedra in them but are now back on the shelves in ephedra-free form. CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth.

By Ryan Lengerich: CNJ staff writer

Mike Dlouhy said he stands behind every product he sells. Until Monday that meant ephedra-based products.

The owner of Nutri-mart Health Foods on Prince Street said many of his popular products contained ephedra, a drug at the epicenter of a health debate after being linked to 155 deaths, including Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler a year ago.

A federal judge on Monday allowed a nationwide ban on dietary supplements containing the amphetamine-like herb, despite pleas from manufacturers. The ban has caused supplement merchants in Clovis to pull the often-popular products from shelves, though some say the financial impact will not be significant.

“We were a little disappointed that it came down because it was such a big seller for us, but we got other things that we can put in place of ephedra,” said Dlouhy, who has owned the store with his wife for three years. “As with any product or customer, you get a good product that the customer likes, it is going to be hard to get them to switch.”

The most popular ephedra-based sellers, Dlouhy said, were the Stacker brand diet supplements and Lipodrene, a metabolism enhancer.

In December the ban was announced and Dlouhy said he was able to sell all his ephedrine products prior to Monday, when the ban took effect. Customers, he said, were buying multiple bottles knowing the product would be unavailable.

A typical bottle of Lipodrene lasts a person about one month.

“These products pose unacceptable health risks, and any consumers who are still using them should stop immediately,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said earlier this week.

While Dlouhy was forced to rip the profitable ephedra products from shelves, his stance differs from Thompson’s.

“I think the whole situation has been overblown by people who didn’t follow the directions,” Dlouhy said. “I stand behind everything I sell but if the FDA says we can’t sell it then we won’t sell it.”

At Bodies In Motion fitness club, owner Oscar Cleare said he has been left with a small number of ephedra-based products, but it will not have much financial impact on his gym.

Cleare said ephedra is a safe product when taken correctly, but poses danger otherwise.

“For a healthy person, I don’t see a problem with ephedra,” Cleare said. “People do misuse anything, so you have to watch products like that and people not using them wisely.”

Cleare said the FDA chose to attack ephedra because companies backing the drug are not powerful enough to fight the ban. Caffine, he said, has been linked to health problems but soft drink and coffee companies are too strong to be challenged.

And then there is the tobacco companies.

“Nicotine is killing more people than ephedra has ever thought about killing,” he said.

At Nutri-mart, ephedra-free products continue to hit shelves, but Dlouhy said it’s too early to tell whether the ephedra-free products are as effective as the products they mirror.

Becky Dlouhy, Mike’s wife, is still a believer in ephedra.
“It was such a good product,” she said. “It was a bummer that they forced us to pull it.”

The Associated Press
contributed to this story.