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         WASHINGTON (Reuter) - U.S. health officials warned Wednesday  
against using diet supplements containing ephedrine sold as 
alternatives to street drugs such as "Ecstasy'', saying they 
posed serious health risks. 
         The Food and Drug Administration said the products, often  
targeted at adolescents and young adults, are marketed under 
brand names with implications that they produce euphoria, 
heightened sexual sensation and awareness or increased energy. 
         It said they contain botanical or "natural'' sources of  
ephedrine, an amphetamine-like stimulant that can have dangerous 
effects on the nervous system and heart. 
         The FDA said the possible adverse effects ranged from heart  
attack, stroke, seizures, psychosis and death to less serious 
ones such as dizziness and irregular heartbeat. 
         It said the risks were serious and it was investigating the  
production and marketing of ephedrine-containing products sold 
as alternatives to illegal street drugs. 
         The FDA said that many of the products bear labels implying  
they can produce a "high'' and it said it considered this type 
of promotion and these claims to violate the food and drug law, 
even as amended in 1994. 
         It said it was committed to take any action needed to remove  
such products from the market. 
         But the agency added that under the amended law it has to  
act product-by-product to show that something is unsafe rather 
than be able to require a manufacturer to prove its product is 
safe before it can be marketed. 
         The agency said that ingredients listed on the panels of the  
products may include ma huang, Chinese ephedra extract, ephedra 
herb powder, epitonin or ephedrine, any of which indicate the 
present of ephedrine. 
         The FDA asked that consumers who have had an adverse  
reaction after taking a dietary supplement or any product 
containing an ephedrine alkaloid to call the agency at 1-800-FDA 
         It said health professionals who have treated patients with  
adverse side effects should call the FDA's Medwatch hot line at