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Finally there’s a voice of sanity being heard in the ephedra debate.

Two years ago, a Northwestern University (NU) football player named Rashidi Wheeler collapsed and died after a practice drill. The Cook County medical examiner determined that the cause of death was an asthma attack. The examiner also found a trace of ephedrine in Wheeler’s system, but ruled that it didn’t contribute to his death.
Wheeler’s mother, Linda Will, filed a suit against NU, accusing coaches of pushing her son too hard during a hot August practice, and for not giving him proper medical treatment. But NU officials had a trace of ephedrine on their side. So in spite of the official cause of death, NU filed a counter-suit against the ephedrine manufacturer, blaming the drug for the young man’s death.

This past summer, Ms. Will’s lawyers persuaded her to include a claim against the supplement manufacturer in her suit. But in a stunning reversal this week, Ms. Will dropped that additional claim. Outside the courthouse she told the Chicago Sun-Times that it would be wrong to take money from the ephedrine maker. She said, “I am not going to do a dishonest act. I’m not going to take money just because I can.”

I’ve read many articles about ephedra in the mainstream press over the last few years, and this is the very first time I’ve seen anyone quoted who was willing to admit that ephedrine was not to blame for an untimely death of an ephedrine user.

Naturally, lawyers for NU immediately went on the defensive, stating that Wheeler’s coaches were unaware that he had taken “that poison.” They also portrayed Ms. Will as misguided, unable to face the fact that “that poison killed her son.”

Of course ephedra is not poison, and it did not kill her son.
And add to that; ephedra is not ephedrine.

In the Sun-Times and other articles that covered Linda Wills’ decision last Tuesday, the word “ephedra” was used when, in fact, a trace of EPHEDRINE was found in her son’s system.
This is typical of the ephedra debate; the mainstream media rarely makes a distinction between the herb ephedra that’s been safely used for centuries, and ephedrine, the synthetic form of ephedra that hypes up the active compound in the herb. As a result the word “ephedra” has become widely and unfairly demonized.

What is not typical is Ms. Wills’ refreshing reluctance to blame the mainstream’s popular scapegoat.
And now, for those of us who live for Sunday afternoon

I’ve got a very bad fever. Or a good fever, depending on how you look at it.

The other night I had a business dinner with two colleagues, one from Tampa and the other from Boston. And while my mind should have been on healthcare issues, I couldn’t keep from thinking that each of us live in cities that won the last three Super Bowls. I believe the correct medical term for my condition is: Football Fever.
After playing four of their first six games on the road, the Ravens are back in Baltimore this Sunday, hosting the Denver Broncos. As Raven’s head coach Brian Billick said earlier this week, “You have to take care of business at home if you want to be playing in January.” Denver is a tough team with a combination of young talent and seasoned vets. My guys will have their work cut out for them taking care of business at home. But last year they did it in a stunning Monday victory. Perhaps a little dj vu will make its way into M&T Bank Stadium this Sunday.