Monster Overdose: Are Energy Drinks Killing Teens?

Angel Reyes III Dangerous Behavior, In The News

Alex Morris died suddenly this year from cardiac arrest at the age of 19. He habitually drank two cans of Monster Energy® drinks each day for two years. His mother Paula believes energy drinks were the cause and immediately filed a lawsuit against Monster Beverage Corp. on June 25, 2013.

This is not the first time that Monster Energy® drinks have been sued as the cause of death for teenagers. The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has reported as many as 5 deaths between 2009 and 2012 could be linked to Monster’s energy drinks. The FDA also linked 5-Hour Energy® drinks with 13 deaths.

Another popular highly caffeinated drink to make the news is Four Loko® – a caffeinated alcoholic malt beverage. This drink sent tons of teens to the hospital. After the FDA stepped in the company dropped caffeine from its products.

In an attempt to avoid negative publicity, Monster® has re-branded its energy drink as a ‘beverage’ instead of a dietary supplement so they no longer have to report deaths associated with the drink to the FDA. What a clever ploy – and one the FDA is likely to buy hook, line and sinker.

Over 20,000 ER visits 2011 involved energy drinks. However the FDA still doesn’t have to regulate energy drinks other than those that combine caffeine and alcohol.

A few US senators are now calling on the FDA to start regulating energy drinks. And the American Medical Association, which represents 225,000 U.S. doctors, has demanded that the Federal Trade Commission ban marketing of energy drinks to kids. This should get interesting.

Monster Energy is a registered trademark of Hansen Beverage Company, Corona CA. 5-Hour Energy is a registered trademark of Innovation Ventures LLC (Living Essentials) Walled Lake, MI.

Generic Wellbutrin XL Antidepressant Recall

Angel Reyes III Dangerous Drugs, In The News

shutterstock_98508260-300x200If this post doesn’t spell out how truly incompetent the Food and Drug Administration is, nothing will. Last week, the FDA recalled the 300mg generic version of Wellbutrin XL. Why? Because it simply doesn’t work. What’s worse (but not surprising) is that the problem with this drug has been around for several years but the FDA chose to ignore it.

As is the case with many other generic drugs, the FDA approved this one with no testing whatsoever. The generic version of Wellbutrin XL comes in 150mg and 300mg doses. Apparently the 150mg dose works just fine. So keeping in line with their lackadaisical attitude toward consumer safety, the FDA made the assumption that if one dose works, the other obviously will too. The 300mg dose is prescribed for patients who have severe depression and anxiety. It was released on the market in 2006. Shortly thereafter, the FDA began receiving numerous complaints from patients.

The FDA is supposed to approve drugs based on its own studies. Instead, it often relies on manufacturers for this task. In this particular instance, Teva, the marketer of the drug which is manufactured by Impax Laboratories, was instructed to do the trial and didn’t, claiming “slow patient enrollment” as the reason. So in 2010, four years after approving the generic, the FDA did its own study which was completed last year. The study concluded that the 300mg dose of the generic version of Wellbutrin XL is ineffective because it doesn’t deliver enough of the drug.

The organization’s press release stated that “FDA has approved five generic versions of Wellbutrin XL 300 mg. Each of these generics was approved based on bioequivalence studies comparing the 150 mg strength of the products to Wellbutrin XL 150 mg. Studies were not performed directly on the 300 mg strength of the products. Rather, the bioequivalence studies were performed using the 150 mg strength, and the results were extrapolated to establish bioequivalence of the 300 mg product. FDA has determined that this approach is no longer appropriate to establish bioequivalence of 300 mg bupropion hydrochloride extended-release tablets to Wellbutrin XL 300 mg, and the Agency is revising its guidance to industry for how to conduct premarket bioequivalence studies in generic bupropion products.” The wording of the above implies that it WAS appropriate to make assumptions regarding generic drugs’ effectiveness, but is no longer. Not only was it totally inappropriate, it is appalling.

Antidepressants are normally prescribed at the minimum dosage and “ramped up” gradually to a higher dose. Imagine the repercussions for patients who took the 300mg dose. Many of these people have Major Depressive Disorder and experience severe symptoms of depression, including suicidal ideation. So one can only speculate that they felt not only disappointment, but complete despair when the 300mg dose made them feel no better or their symptoms continued to escalate.

Big Pharma and the FDA can’t continue with their current practices without serious backlash. Hopefully members of Congress will soon understand that if they don’t force regulation and oversight, their own careers may be in jeopardy as one day, the general public will no longer stand for allowing drug companies and the FDA to play Russian Roulette with their health.

Supreme Court Rules Against Generic Drug Lawsuits

Angel Reyes III Dangerous Drugs, In The News

supreme-court-rules-against-generic-drug-lawsuitsBig Pharma just keeps getting bigger and bigger, while the FDA grows more and more incompetent. Drug lobbyists have a powerful hold on our government and I don’t imagine that will change any time soon.

Just this past Monday, in a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that people injured by dangerous generic drugs cannot sue manufacturers over pulling those drugs from the market. But this is just another nail in the coffin for patients’ rights. A previous Supreme Court ruling protected generics from almost all lawsuits over their warning labels, while some states continued to allow lawsuits over product safety itself.

This most recent ruling concerns a woman whose skin burned off and turned into an open wound, resulting in permanent disabilities caused by a generic painkiller. Because the painkiller was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which warned about the dangers of this drug, as did its label, lawyers for the drug company and Justice Department argued that her case should be “preempted.” They claimed that federal laws require the FDA to balance risks against benefits of drugs, and juries should not be allowed to question the FDA’s “expert” determinations. What expert determinations? So many drugs have been approved by the FDA only to be taken off the market due to serious injuries incurred by their victims. When doctors prescribe these drugs, they don’t tell patients, “Okay, I’m going to prescribe this drug, but you should know you may be seriously injured by it.” From our experience in personal injury law, rarely are patients warned of ANY risks. They rely on their doctors to make decisions on which drugs are safe.

But where do doctors get their information? From the drug companies, of course. Pharmaceutical reps are literally “drug peddlers” who give doctors free samples, espousing the fantastic benefits of the drugs they sell. I would venture to say that many doctors don’t take the time to research the dangers of these drugs for themselves.

Additionally, the FDA is so underfunded and incompetent, the organization only tests a fraction of drugs on the market. And they do a highly ineffective job, as previous posts to this blog have indicated. So for attorneys to claim that jurors should not question the FDA’s “expert” determinations is, in a word, absurd.

Justice Sonia Sotomayer had a dissenting opinion (and one with which I agree). She said the company had the option to stop selling the drug altogether. But unfortunately, majority ruled and the Generic Pharmaceutical Association praised that ruling. According to GPhA President Ralph Neas, “The experts at the FDA alone have the scientific knowledge, regulatory experience, and complete data to make these decisions.” That statement would be laughable if it wasn’t just plain sad.

Crash In Burleson Texas Kills 4 and Injures 9

Angel Reyes III Auto Accidents, In The News

burleson-crashAs is far too often the case, police believe alcohol was involved in a four-car crash this past Saturday. The incident happened just before midnight on Burleson Retta Road and caused so much destruction that police closed off a quarter-mile of road with crime tape and police cars until Sunday afternoon.

A youth pastor was one of four people killed in this horrific four-vehicle collision. Sadly, Brian Jennings and two other “good Samaritans” were trying to help a stranded vehicle when another driver hit it on the dimly lit country road. Nine people were also injured and two of those are in critical condition. According to Linda Caram, the crash was so loud, her husband and she thought it sounded like an explosion. They literally had car parts scattered across their driveway. After hearing the crash, Linda and her husband received a call from a neighbor saying his wife and daughter were among those killed.

Although the names of victims have not yet been released, Alsbury Baptist Church confirmed that its youth minister Brian Jennings was among those killed. Jennings was a father of three, and had just left a party held in honor of his oldest son, who had graduated from Centennial High School in Burleson. Jennings was once a troubled teen who had turned his life around as an adult by helping others. Brian apparently loved video games, board games, dancing and making people laugh.

A mother and her adult daughter were also trying to assist the disabled vehicle when they were killed. The daughter was home visiting from nursing school. Her father had gone inside the home to bring in a mailbox that was destroyed in the crash. When he returned, he found his wife and daughter dead.

Three vehicles, including the disabled one, were in the westbound lane. The fourth car was headed when the crash occurred. Authorities are still investigating whether alcohol was a major factor in the crash.

If you have sustained injuries from a car or truck wreck, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the the premier auto accident attorneys in Dallas at Reyes Browne Reilley Law Firm at 214-526-7900, or submit the short case review form on the right. Remember – you’re under no obligation to use our services, and we charge nothing if you do not win your claim.

Texting While Driving Is Deadly

Angel Reyes III Auto Accidents, In The News

Savannah-nash-300x167I’m not sure even where to start writing here. As a mother I was heartbroken to hear the news of the young sixteen-year-old girl named Savannah Nash who died this weekend as she ran her car into a tractor-trailer — an accident that investigators have found most likely was caused by her texting while driving. I cannot imagine the grief her parents are going through, but I can imagine that they likely warned her not to text and drive. I also realize young people rarely think anything bad will happen to them. I was young once too, and I know I didn’t always listen to warnings of danger either.

Now as a parent, my greatest fear is my children not listening to me about the dangers of distracted driving, although I warn them regularly. In fact, just last week after blogging about the staggering statistics of the dangers of texting and driving, I shared with my children the information I learned, hoping that if I continue to remind them enough, they will understand the serious nature of this issue. Specifically, I told them as we were driving down the highway at 55 mph that if I sent a text at that exact time it would be the equivalent of my driving the same speed blindfolded down the length of a football field. I figured it was a statistic they could understand.

I never imagined that so soon after, I would be following up that conversation with the news of young Savannah Nash’s driving accident. The fact is that however difficult it was for me to tell them about what happened or to write about it now, I hope that if I remind people to wait to answer that one text or email, everyone will understand.

While I’ve always known texting and driving was dangerous, my fear of the consequences has escalated greatly now that in my law practice I work with attorneys who represent people injured by distracted drivers. I see too often the devastation it can cause, yet each time I hear of another texting/driving tragedy, I am deeply saddened.

Savannah Nash will now be a poster child for the dangers of driving and texting – a role no one should ever have to take. Her parents simply let her drive to the grocery store at 4 in the afternoon; that was all. Her story reminds us that life is so fragile, and cars, while necessary and practical, are dangerous when people do not focus their full attention on driving.

I cannot repeat enough that distracted driving leads to nothing good. Distracted driving is an actionable crime and exponentially increases the likelihood of death or injury from a car accident. Please do not text and drive. We do not need any more examples like the one we got this weekend of why it is so dangerous.

If you or someone you care about has sustained injuries from a distracted-driver car or truck wreck, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the tenacious DFW car crash attorneys at Reyes Browne Reilley Law Firm at 214-526-7900, or submit the short case review form on the right. Remember – You’re under no obligation to use our services, and we charge nothing if you do not win your claim.

Transvaginal Mesh and the Wall Street Journal

Angel Reyes III Dangerous Drugs, In The News

shutterstock_75459268-200x299The Wall Street Journal put out a timely article today entitled “Outcomes are Mixed for Pelvic Procedure”. I say timely because the product-liability lawsuits against five manufacturers of transvaginal mesh are in full swing, and as a female attorney who is handling mesh cases, this article most definitely caught my eye when it quoted a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association finding, “long-term benefits are limited for women who undergo an operation to treat a common condition called pelvic organ prolapse, which can lead to urinary problems and discomfort.”

The Journal explained that women facing Pelvic Organ Prolapse or “POP” discover that their uterus or vaginal walls have dropped post childbirth. In an attempt to cure women, doctors have surgically implanted synthetic mesh into the vagina to prop up or anchor female organs. POP also affects women whose bladders have fallen as a result of childbirth or menopause. Many women also have had surgery using the same synthetic mesh to sling up their bladders as a means to cure their incontinence.

Unfortunately, I have found when talking to countless women suffering from the aftermath of transvaginal mesh surgeries that the mesh actually exacerbated their incontinence rather than eradicating it. I also have found that not only do the women have increased problems with bladder function, but they also face regular urinary tract infections, ongoing yeast infections, and constant pelvic pain. Some women actually feel the mesh falling out through their vaginas. Other women are now celibate because of the pain the mesh causes them during intercourse. Innumerable women have told me that they are unable to leave their homes for long periods of time for fear that their “diapers” they are now having to wear will leak when prior to the surgery they did not have such problems. So while some may say that the “outcomes may be mixed” for women having transvaginal mesh surgery, it seems to me that the problems greatly outweigh the promised benefits of its use.

Reyes | Browne | Reilley is currently helping hundreds of transvaginal mesh and bladder sling victims and their families recover damages from their devastating TVM complications. If you or someone you know suffered injuries from this product, please call us and speak to a trial-ready medical device lawyer for a complementary and confidential consultation. You are under no obligation to use our services. Call us today at 214-526-7900, or submit the short case review form on the right.

Lower Drunk Driving Threshold To .05 Blood Alcohol Level?

Angel Reyes III Dangerous Behavior, In The News

shutterstock_13811443-300x200According to the Associated Press, a federal safety board just recommended that states should cut their drunken driving threshold by nearly 1/2, from .08 blood alcohol level to .05. Apparently research shows that the .05 standard has significantly reduced deaths in other countries. In fact, over 100 countries have adopted this .05 standard. Within ten years in Europe, traffic deaths related to drunken driving were reduced by more than half. So what does a .05 alcohol level mean to drivers? It means a woman weighing less than 120 pounds can get a DUI after one drink, and a man weighing 160 pounds can be hauled off for two drinks. A drink is considered 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine or 1 ounce of 80-proof alcohol.

The National Transportation Safety Board indicated it didn’t intend to prevent drivers from having a glass of wine with dinner. However, if one does have a drink or two, the safest bet is to not drive. The fact is that alcohol concentration levels as low as .01 can impair driving performance. Levels as low as .05 substantially increase the risk of fatal crashes, said the NTSB.

Jonathan Adkins, an official with the Governors Highway Safety Association said, “It was very difficult to get .08 in most states so lowering it again won’t be popular. The focus in the states is on high blood alcohol content offenders as well as repeat offenders. We expect industry will also be very vocal about keeping the limit at .08.” The term “industry,” of course, means the alcohol industry which has a huge lobby in government.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimated that 7,082 deaths could have been prevented in 2010 if all drivers on the road had blood alcohol content below .08. As this story unfolds further, it will be interesting to see how far the NTSB’s recommendations get at the state level. But the fact remains, drunk drivers need to stay off our roads at all costs.

If you or someone you care about has sustained injuries from a drunk driver or alcohol-related car or truck wreck, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the Dallas auto accident attorneys at Reyes Browne Reilley Law Firm at 214-526-7900, or submit the short case review form on the right. Remember – You’re under no obligation to use our services, and we charge nothing if you do not win your claim.

Zolpidem (Ambien) ER Visits On The Rise

Angel Reyes III Dangerous Drugs, In The News

ambienZolpidem is a prescription sleep medication that is sending more and more people to emergency rooms from its serious side effects. Never heard of Zolpidem? Well, I bet you’ve heard of Ambien. Zolpidem is the active ingredient in Ambien, Ambien CR, Edluar and Zolpimist. But the most common among these is Ambien.

I’ve heard countless stories of people doing some pretty crazy things on Ambien – like sleepwalking into a 7-11 while in their pajamas. I’ve also heard some horrific stories about terrible nightmares and hallucinations from taking Ambien.

According to a new federal report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Drug Abuse Action Network (DAWN), from 2005-2010, visits to emergency rooms from the adverse side effects of Zolpidem increased by over 200 percent. The findings of this report are as follows:

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  • In 2010, there were 64,175 emergency-department visits involving zolpidem. Of these, 19,487 — or 30 percent — specifically involved adverse reactions to the sleep medication.
  • In 2005, there were just 6,111 emergency-room visits involving adverse reactions to the sleep drug. During the period 2005-2010, emergency-department visits involving adverse reactions to zolpidem rose almost 220 percent.
  • Women accounted for 68 percent of emergency-department visits related to adverse reactions to zolpidem in 2010. The differences between men and women fluctuated during the five-year period, but overall women made up a greater number of the zolpidem-related emergency visits in every year but 2008.
  • The number of emergency room visits made by women involving adverse effects of zolpidem increased by 274 percent from 2005-2010. Visits by men increased 144 percent.
  • Adults ages 45 and older accounted for 74 percent of all emergency room visits involving adverse reactions to zolpidem.
  • Patients ages 65 and older were the most common age group to seek emergency treatment for adverse reactions to zolpidem – 32 percent.
  • Patients ages 45-54 were the next largest group, accounting for 22 percent of all visits.
  • Of the total visits to emergency room visits related to adverse effects of zolpidem, 40 percent involved the sleep drug alone.
  • In 50 percent of the cases, one or more additional prescription drugs were involved.
  • The most common prescription drugs seen in combination with zolpidem’s adverse effects included narcotic pain relievers, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications and other insomnia medications.
  • Research also has shown that older adults are at greater risk for adverse effects from sleep medications, including those containing zolpidem.

In January of this year, the Food and Drug Administration issued a Zolpidem safety alert and announced it would require drug makers to cut in half the recommended dosages of medications containing zolpidem for women. The agency also recommended lowering the dosages for men, and urged medical professionals to warn all patients taking zolpidem about potential side effects. Sleep medications that contain zolpidem should be prescribed on a short-term basis only in severe cases of sleep disorders.

Big Pharma has once again created a monster with medications containing zolpidem. And as usual, rather than treating the problem, American doctors prescribe these pills to alleviate the symptoms.

Bounce House Operators Must Carry Liability, But Not Fertilizer Companies?

Angel Reyes III In The News, Workplace Accidents

Plant_Explosion_Investigation_1-300x207Karl Magerheimer owns a family bounce house business for which Texas law requires him to carry $1 million in liability insurance. Of course, kids get hurt by bounce houses that are not properly secured and flip over. So this law is not unreasonable.  Other businesses required to have insurance covering injuries, deaths and property damage include home exterminators, air conditioning repairmen, tow truck drivers and many more.

Conversely, plants that house and mix dangerous materials like West Fertilizer Co. in West, Texas are a different story.  On April 17, 5 people were killed and 200 more were injured due to fire and explosion of mammoth proportions in West. Three state agencies couldn’t explain why NO liability insurance coverage was required for such companies.  Additionally, the Texas Department of Insurance reported that it only oversees insurance companies and the amusement ride industry.  According to insurance spokesman Jerry Hagins, “We don’t make law.  We implement law.”

The tragedy in West, Texas brings to light how flawed the system truly is in regard to insurance coverage.  During a hearing last week of the House homeland and security and public safety committee, this issue was discussed.  As is standard protocol with any governmental agency, change will be super-slow.  Joe Pickett, an El Paso Democrat who chairs the committee, said it was “too late in the legislation session” to get anything done in a timely manner.  “We don’t even have enough information,” he said.  Pickett called for a mid-June hearing to give all agencies and lawmakers more time for information.

There is apparently no governmental list of which businesses must have liability coverage.  However, most businesses carry liability coverage as standard industry practice.  In the case of West, Texas, the fertilizer company had only $1 million in coverage.  What’s worse, if the plant is found negligent, its policy would only pay $100 million in property losses that were estimated by the Insurance Council of Texas.  So why did West Fertilizer only carry $1 million in coverage when there was such potential for hazardous disasters?  We have no answers from either the company or its insurer to date.  The awful explosion literally took down hundreds of homes and structures in a 35-block radius.  Imagine the magnitude of 35 blocks!  The cause of the blast is yet to be determined, but it is speculated that the plant’s storage of ammonium nitrate, which is widely used as a crop fertilizer and part of an explosive mixture in mining, is the culprit.  West stored around 270 tons of this hazardous substance last year – one of the largest stores in Texas.

Two negligence suits have been filed against West Fertilizer on behalf of its victims by Tyler attorney Randy C. Roberts, who said his clients are in a real bind.  $1 million dollars is a drop in the bucket for compensation of their losses

Mark Hanna, a spokesman for the Insurance Council, sounded like he was making excuses by saying that $1 million is a common amount for commercial property coverage, and that explosions triggered by ammonium nitrate don’t happen frequently.  In the defense of West Fertilizer and its insurance company, he claimed that they may have balanced that fact against the risks. He went on to say that lawmakers do not like to tell businesses how much insurance to purchase.

Really?  Then why are amusement ride owners required to have proof of minimum insurance and an annual safety inspection?  In fact, the amounts are at least $1 million per incident for bodily injury and $500,000 for property damage.  Additionally, the Department of Agriculture has similar requirements of residential and business pest companies, with at least $200,000 in liability for bodily injury and property damage.

According to the Dallas Morning News, no one in our state government keeps a centralized list of businesses required by law to have liability coverage.  But here is a list the publication identified:

*combined bodily injury and property damage per occurrence

**insurance required by law but amount not proscribed

Amusement ride operators$1.5 million
Elevator/escalator contractors$1.5 million
Residential appliance installers$600,000
Emergency medical services providers$500,000
Tow trucks (non-accident work)$300,000
Structural pest control$300,000
Used automotive parts recyclers$250,000
Emergency/personal fall alarm responders$200,000
Air conditioning (lowest level)$200,000
Substance abuse treatment facilities**N/A

NOTES: Certain companies, such as those handling hazardous waste, must show proof of financial responsibility to cover third parties. Combative sports like mixed-martial arts and boxing provide surety bonds and medical coverage.

SOURCES: Departments of Insurance, Agriculture, Licensing and Regulation, and State Health Services; and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

Reyes | Browne | Reilley has recovered millions of dollars for victims and their families from commercial premises, industrial and construction site accidents. If you or someone you know suffered injuries this or any other type of accident, please call us for a complementary consultation. You are under no obligation to use our services. Call us today at 214-526-7900, or submit the short case review form on the right.

Recent Vets Have 75% Higher Vehicular Mortality Rates

Angel Reyes III Auto Accidents, In The News

shutterstock_17890870-300x199As we all know, many veterans must deal with the devastating effects of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). But that’s not the only problem soldiers face. Believe it or not, veterans of both wars have a 75% higher rate of fatal motor vehicle accidents than civilians. In fact, those STILL in the military have a higher risk of crashing their vehicles months after returning home. And the men and women who served in multiple combat zones are at the highest risk of those accidents.

These findings are based on research and observation of service members, veterans and counselors. The explanation given is that soldiers who had to maneuver throughout roads in war zones did so with the intention of saving lives. However, those same driving habits are highly dangerous on America’s roads. Some of these maneuvers include racing through intersections, driving in two lanes, swerving on bridges and not wearing seat belts because they prevent them from what they perceive as a rapid escape.

Another major contributing factor is the obvious – PTSD. Thousands of veterans suffer from this horrible disorder, and unfortunately, a major symptom of PTSD is drunken driving. This evidence is based on both research and testimonies from other veterans.

According to Bruce H. Jones, a physician and epidemiologist who heads the Army’s Injury Prevention Program at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, “Before suicides became the leading cause of non-battle injuries, motor vehicle accidents were.”

Further research is needed but it is anticipated that findings will support the fact that motor vehicle crashes will rival suicide and interpersonal violence as a consequence of fighting overseas. Motor vehicle accidents in the military are nothing new, however. From 1999 – 2012, as many active-duty military personnel died in noncombat vehicle crashes both on and off duty as were killed in the Iraq war (with 4,423 deaths from accidents and 4,409 killed in Iraq). These are astounding statistics!

Men who served in Iraq or Afghanistan have a 76% higher rate of dying in motor vehicle crashes and women have a 43% higher rate than civilians. This same phenomenon happened with Persian Gulf War veterans.

Motorcycle crashes among veterans resulted in increased fatalities during these wars, accounting for 14% of military traffic deaths in 2001 and rising to 38% in 2008. The total rate of motorcycle deaths tripled during this period.