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Tranzfusion's close shave with the Feds

Author: michelle pirovich
Sunday, 3 November 2002
If I may take your minds back a few weeks, you may remember when TranZfusion road tested some delightful herbal products from UK based company Repharm. Our review of both Caps (the uppers) and Zero (the comedown pills) were well received, with many of you naturally wanting to try them out.

With a new shipment on their way from the UK, TranZfusion had good intentions of running a few competitions so that our beloved members could enjoy what Repharm had to offer. Until the Federal Police stepped in…

Upon arrival we opened our package, only to find that the box was empty! Except for a notice from the Federal Police claiming that the products inside may have contained an illegal substance and that they had been confiscated. It also mentioned that if we wanted to prove otherwise and claim our products back that we needed to get down to an office somewhere and speak to someone, annoyingly these finer details had been omitted from this notice.

Well colour me mortified beyond belief, as a previous lot of Repharm products had made their way through customs without any problems, we immediately spoke to Repharm to find out what was going on. After a little research at their end, we were told that there might in fact be a restriction on 'ephedra' in Australia.

Donning my researcher's hat I did a little fact-finding to see exactly what ephedra is, how it works and why it could be a restricted substance.

Ephedra is quite simply a herb, it has been used by the Chinese for over 5,000 years, primarily to treat asthma and reduce upper respiratory infections. Similar to Pseudo-ephedrine, ephedra stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, causing vasoconstriction of the blood vessels in the lining of the nose. It also dilates the bronchial tubes and stimulates the heart. Hence it benefits body builders and improves endurance for athletes by promoting themogenesis (the burning of fat).

When ephedra is combined with a modest amount of caffeine as found in green tea extract or Guarana, the thermogenic effects can be improved as much as 20% (optimum ratio of ephedra to caffeine is 20mg to 200mg taken 3 times a day).

It's these, the stimulating and thermogenic effects that have caused ephedra's PR and legal problems. The problem being that young people are known to take large amounts of ephedra, often mixed with other stimulants, in order to get a 'high.' In such cases the ephedra is taken in combination with other drugs, such as caffeine and pseudoephedrine, and in some cases with illegal substances such as methamphetamines. This has occasionally resulted in cardiovascular accidents and even a few deaths.

Despite these unfortunate events, ephedra has retained an excellent safety record especially when taking into account the large number of people who use the herb, and just to keep things in perspective, remember that 20,000 Americans are hospitalized each year from taking aspirin!

Due to a few highly publicized incidents, a public perception of danger has ensued and political groups in two states of the US have managed to get ephedra banned. One such state, Ohio, has since taken a more objective look at the data and has decided to lift its ban. The other state, Nebraska, still has a ban on the herb. We have not yet been able to confirm whether ephedra is a completely banned substance in Australia or if restrictions apply primarily to concentrations and dosages.

Australia is the first country where Repharm have encountered this problem and to Repharm's credit they have handled this issue intelligently and professionally. 'It goes without saying that we in no way want to make any of our customers or affiliates liable as a result of our products. We are terribly sorry about this, not least because we were starting to build up a little momentum in Australia and it seemed like a very receptive region for our products. As it stands we'll need to look into this more closely before taking any of this further.'

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