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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Deaths Possibly Linked To 5-Hour Energy

There was widespread coverage of the FDA's probe into whether the popular energy drink 5-Hour Energy is responsible for 13 deaths reported to the agency. Much of the media coverage notes that the agency is emphasizing that it has not yet found a link between the fatalities and the energy drink, and that it is merely investigating the reports. Many of the reports also mention that other energy drinks, including Monster Energy and Rockstar Energy, have also been under heavy scrutiny.
        For its part, the AP (11/16, Jalonick) reports that "federal health authorities are investigating reports of 13 deaths possibly linked to so-called energy shots and cautioning consumers to talk to their doctors before they take them or other energy drinks." According to the article, "the Food and Drug Administration has received 92 reports over four years that cite illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths after consumption of a product marketed as 5-Hour Energy." Officials with the agency "said the reports to the FDA from consumers," physicians and "others don't necessarily prove that the drinks caused the deaths or injuries but said they are investigating each one."
        NBC Nightly News (11/15, story 9, 1:50, Williams) reported, "The FDA says it is looking into the possibility of the connection between the five-hour energy and 13 deaths over the past four years that the company self-reported. Heart attacks, convulsions, even a spontaneous abortion reported. The company insists they are adverse event reports that are not substantiated and the FDA says it's premature to draw any conclusions."
        In a CBS Evening News (11/15, story 7, 2:25, Pelley) broadcast, Dr. Jon Lapook interviews Manoj Bhargava, the CEO of 5-Hour Energy. When Lapook asked Bhargava to reveal the ingredients of the drink, the CEO responded, "I don't remember all of them, but certainly amino acids are the main ingredients, and there is some caffeine." Lapook: "How much caffeine?" Bhargava: "About as much as a medium Starbucks." Lapook also mentioned in the segment that a pediatric cardiologist told him "for most people one two-ounce shot is probably safe, but for the susceptible kids who have an underlying problem it could give them an irregular heartbeat that could kill them." Later, Lapook notes that "during the entire interview," Bhargava "would never tell me exactly how many milligrams of caffeine are in his product saying people couldn't interpret that number. And I think that reflects one of the big issues here. These products are not required to say on the label exactly what's in them."
        ABC World News (11/15, story 8, 2:20, Sawyer) also interviews Bhargava. When asked by ABC's correspondent Jim Avila whether the energy drink poses any risk to a healthy person, Bhargava, responds, "Not at all. None." Avila: "How much caffeine is really in 5-Hour Energy? A two-ounce bottle contains 207 milligrams of caffeine, equivalent to two eight-ounce cups of coffee, two and a half Red Bulls or nearly six Coca-Colas. And many doctors say research shows that doesn't tell the whole story." Dr. Marcie Schneider, Greenwich Adolescent Medicine, LLC: "Energy drinks take it to a different level because there are other components, other ingredients, in these drinks that take the caffeine and make it even more potent." Avila: "One of the ingredients in 5-Hour Energy is taurine, what scientists call a caffeine-potentiation amino acid, or coffee turbo-charged. Kicking up the caffeine dramatically." Schneider: "If you knew you were capable of drinking four cups of coffee over the morning, you probably would feel very different" Avila: "How much caffeine does it take to kill a healthy person? About 5,000 milligrams. That's 50 couple of coffee, or 25 shots of 5-Hour. More than most could physically drink and many more than the two bottles a day 5-Hour Energy recommends."
        Also covering the story are the Los Angeles Times (11/15, Hallock) "Daily Dish" blog, WebMD (11/15, DeNoon), Forbes (11/15, Haiken), AFP (11/16) and CNN (11/15, Hudson) on its website.
        FDA Posts Fatality, Injury Filings For Three Energy Drinks. On the front page of its "Business Day" section, the New York Times (11/16, B1, Meier, Subscription Publication) reports that "as its policies on highly caffeinated energy drinks are scrutinized, the Food and Drug Administration publicly released records on Thursday about fatality and injury filings that mentioned the possible involvement of three top-selling products." According to the article, "the Web posting of the records by the agency included 13 previously undisclosed injury filings that mentioned Rockstar Energy." The agency also released filings that mention 5-Hour Energy and Monster Energy.
        Bloomberg News (11/16, Edney) reports that the FDA "hasn't yet made public reports for other drinks such as Red Bull and PepsiCo's AMP Energy."
        CEO Denies 5-Hour Energy Is Responsible For Deaths. FOX News (11/15) reports on its website that "the founder and CEO of 5-Hour Energy is vehemently denying any suggestion that his company's popular drink is responsible for 13 deaths in the past four years, following a report" from the FDA, which is "looking into the claims." Fox News quotes 5-Hour Energy CEO Manoj Bhargava as saying, "The idea that the drink is to blame for killing anyone is like comparing 'drinking a bottle of water today, and then thousands of people died the next day; that somehow it's linked. It's just false.'"