Feds seize dietary supplements from Norcross company

LAWRENCEVILLE - Federal agents seized about $3 million worth of dietary supplements and ingredients containing ephedrine this week from a Norcross-based pharmaceutical company.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined that "Lipodrene," "Stimerex-ES," and "Betadrene" - dietary supplements manufactured, marketed and distributed by Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals Inc. - contain too much ephedrine. Ephedrine has been found to cause serious health problems, according to a press release issued Friday by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta.

The U.S. Marshal's Service on Thursday began seizing products from Hi-Tech facilities on Jimmy Carter Boulevard in Norcross. It quarantined more than 200 cases of finished product, more than 200 boxes of bulk tablets

and nine 25-kilo drums

of ephedrine alkaloid

raw material.

Ephedrine is an adrenaline-like stimulant that can have potentially dangerous effects on the heart, raising blood pressure and stressing the circulatory system, the press release said. In February 2004, the FDA declared that they present an unreasonable risk of illness or injury.

Jared Wheat, president of Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, disputes the FDA's claims and stands behind his product. He claimed the agency has been wishy-washy about the effects of the plant ephedra and the alkaloids derived from it. It allows ephedrine in some over-the-counter medications but prohibits it in dietary supplements, Wheat said.

"In my opinion they're talking out both sides of their mouth," Wheat said.

Wheat said his company sued the FDA in federal court six months ago seeking to prevent the agency from enforcing the ban on ephedrine. The seizure of Hi-Tech Pharmaceutical's products is costing the company about $100,000 a day, he estimated.

"We are filing a temporary restraining order on Monday asking the judge to lift the embargo and keep the FDA from taking any future action until the lawsuit is settled," Wheat said. "We stand behind the safety and the efficacy of our product, and we look forward to our day in court."