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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

HHS Seeks to Block Over the Counter sale of Androstenedione

Aired March 11, 2004 - 14:27   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Now to Washington, D.C. The head of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, at the podium talking about that crack down on Andro. Let's listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

TOMMY THOMPSON, HHS SECRETARY: ... we brought together such a wonderful by partisan group of people.

I'd also like to acknowledge the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Dr. Andretha Barthwell (ph) who is also with us today.

Today I am very pleased to be able to announce that we're cracking down on companies that manufacture, market and distribute products containing androstenedione, also known as Andro.

Today we're sending letters to 23 companies asking them to stop selling products containing androstenedione as dietary supplements and warning them that they can face enforcement actions if they do not take the appropriate steps.

Androstenedione is a steroid precursor which means that the body turns it into a steroid. Because andro acts like a steroid, it poses the same health risks as other steroids.

Today's action is part of this department's continuing effort to protect Americans from consuming unhealthy products. Since December 2002, we have issued 75 letters to firms who made misleading claims about their products for treatments of life threatening diseases such as cancer, Lupus and heart disease. We have seized approximately $9 million worth of dietary supplements that were promoted to treat a variety of serious medical conditions.

Last December, we announced that we are prohibiting sales of dietary supplements containing Ephedrine.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPSON: We're in the dark. Then there was light.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone is leaning against the wall switch.

THOMPSON: I'm glad that we have a TV light. Now this has never happened... PHILLIPS: All right. Well, you know, like in television, we'll lose a signal, we'll lose a satellite. I guess they're losing a little light there at the Health and Human Services -- it's back on. I guess they did pay their bill. Let's dip back in.

THOMPSON: We want to make sure that we point this out to individuals that can do something about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're preaching to the choir.

THOMPSON: We've increased enforcement actions against fraudulent marketing and dietary supplements. And in 2003 we proposed good manufacturing products for all dietary supplements. We may complete the rule sometime this year.

President Bush in his recent State of the Union Address emphasized the administration's commitment to encouraging positive role models for our children. For many children, athletes are their most influential role model, after their parents. So the president challenged sports leagues to send the right message and to get rid of steroids immediately.

Our surveys show that about 1 out of 40 high school seniors reported using andro in the past year. For sophomores, the rate is 1 in 50. The use of performance enhancing drugs in football, basketball, hockey, baseball and other sports is dangerous and it sends the wrong message.

It says that there are shortcuts to accomplishment. It says that performance is more important than character. But in fact, the best and safest way to get faster and stronger is to eat well, to exercise and to avoid risky behaviors.

We will continue our aggressive steps to protect consumers from products and drugs that promise greater performance, but instead put health at great risk. If firms refuse to cease distributing these products, we may seize products, pursue injunctions or seek criminal actions.

Dr. McClellan (ph) and I have also encouraged Congress to pass the bill which is being sponsored by two outstanding senators, Senators Hatch and Biden, and Representative Sweeney.

It would classify products containing andro as controlled substances. This would enable the DEA to regulate these under the Controlled Substance Act, similar to how steroids are now regulated.

Products containing andro may seem to have short-term benefits, but the science shows us that they create real and significant health risks. The amount of andro...

PHILLIPS: Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson making the final announcement out of Washington D.C., cracking down on Andro. We've been telling but this. It's a steroid-like supplement made famous after baseball great Mark McGuire admitted to taking this. Now Tommy Thompson coming forward saying manufacturers must cease the production of Andro unless they can prove it's not dangerous. We're following this story. We'll bring you more.

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