October 2009 Archives

October 27, 2009

FDA Sticks to Zicam Cold Remedy Warning Letter on Loss of Smell

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has refused to back down from a warning letter sent to Zicam manufacturers, Matrixx Initiatives, Inc., regarding the potential dangers of its over-the-counter cold medication.  In June 2009, the FDA warned consumers that three Zicam products -- Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel, Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Swabs, and Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Swabs, Kids Size (discontinued product) -- were associated with 130 reports of the loss of sense of smell (also known as anosmia).  According to the FDA, the loss of sense of smell reportedly occurred after the first dose of the drug, but is also known to occur after multiple doses.

The potentially dangerous Zicam products contain zinc gluconate (labeled "zincum gluconicum") as the active ingredient.  The FDA warns on its website that although these products are marketed to reduce the duration and severity of the common cold, the products have not been shown to be effective in doing so.  Consumers are advised not to use the potentially dangerous drugs for any reason and to throw away any remaining product.  Matrixx Initiatives has since pulled the products in question from the market, but the FDA fears that unknowing consumers will use products still stored in their medicine cabinets.

In the June 2009 warning letter, the FDA accused Matrixx Initiatives of failing to provide any data to establish that Zicam Cold Remedy intranasal products are safe and effective for the uses identified in their labeling.  On the contrary, the FDA said that there is published scientific literature that evidences various salts of zinc can damage olfactory function in humans.

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October 19, 2009

Prescription for Death

Dead by Mistake a recent Hearst Corporation study, estimates that 200,000 Americans will die this year from hospital errors and infections. These preventable errors can affect anyone regardless of age, wealth, previous health history, social status, or level of education. And as personal injury attorneys who help relatives of those victims of wrongful death or malpractice, we have seen the disastrous effects of these mistakes.

Three-week-old Alyssa Shinn was born 14 weeks prematurely and was progressing well until her death following an accidental overdose of zinc (ABC News). At a hospital in Indiana, three babies died after receiving an overdose of heparin.

Michael Hurewitz, a healthy 57-year-old newspaper reporter, entered Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City to donate part of his liver to his brother. He died there from an infection contracted in the hospital after the surgery.

Even the prestigious Massachusetts General Hospital is not immune from error. Trevor Nelson, a 34-year-old producer with the television news show 60 Minutes, was admitted with a headache and fever. He was diagnosed with viral meningitis, a condition that frequently resolves itself within about 10 days even without treatment. However, Nelson was administered frequent high doses of powerful narcotic drugs and died within 15 hours of his hospital admission.

How can you protect yourself if you are hospitalized? Be a partner in your care, not just a passive observer. Ask questions, and check your medications to be sure that you are receiving the correct drugs and dosages. Have employees check your name and compare it to the name on the chart or on their orders before giving you any treatment or taking you for any procedures. Check that hospital employees wash their hands or wear fresh disposable gloves when treating you. And if you are unable to take these measures for yourself, have a family member or friend act as your advocate.

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October 12, 2009

Target Settles Automatic Door Injury Lawsuit for $7 Million

Target Corp., the owners of Target locations nationwide, recently settled an automatic door personal injury lawsuit filed against them by an 80-year-old customer.  According to reports, the customer claimed that Target had failed to inspect and maintain a set of automatic doors that malfunctioned and injured her.  The customer was injured after the automatic door struck her and knocked her to the ground causing her to hit her head.  She was then struck in the head again by the door when it continued to open and close while she was on the ground.  The customer also claimed that Target did not follow the safety guidelines set out by the automatic doors' manufacturer, Besam USA, who was also named in the lawsuit.  The injured party also claimed that the doors did not have a proper fail-safe system which would alarm to obstructions.

The elderly customer suffered brain injuries that prevented her from taking care of her eldest daughter with special needs.  The injured customer also claimed that she had to enter a nursing home to obtain the proper daily care after her injuries.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the second leading cause of nonfatal injuries in the United States among people 65 years of age or older in 2007 was being unintentionally struck by or crushed by a human, animal, or inanimate object other than a vehicle or machinery.

Of course, the technology behind these doors that open and close based on sensors or the push of a button is quite helpful in everyday life.  Automatic doors provide access to people carrying objects into and out of buildings, large crowds, physically challenged individuals, and have numerous other useful applications.  However, when these doors are not maintained properly or designed defectively, they can be extremely dangerous and cause serious injuries such as broken bones, traumatic brain injury, and severed fingers or limbs.  Automatic door injuries are often caused by defective or poorly maintained systems closing with excessive force or closing unexpectedly.

Traumatic brain injuries are more prevalent than one might imagine.  According to the CDC, approximately 1.4 million people in United States suffer traumatic brain injuries each year.   Of those, approximately 50,000 die from their injuries, 235,000 are hospitalized, and 1.1 million are treated and released from the emergency department.  Injuries to the brain can be difficult to self-diagnose as the signs and symptoms may be subtle and not appear until days or weeks after the injury.  People that have suffered a traumatic brain injury may appear fine, but changes in their behavior or health may signify injury.

Some signs of traumatic brain injury include:

  • headache or neck pain that does not subside
  • difficulty remembering, concentrating or making decision
  • slowness in thinking, speaking, acting, or reading
  • see more signs and symptoms at CDC.gov

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October 9, 2009

Top Ten Most Dangerous Children's Products

Your child may be at risk of serious injury or death if you are using any of the products listed below.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) recently released the following list of the ten most hazardous recalled children's products that might still be available in resale stores or on the Internet:

  • Evenflo Envision High Chairs -- Fasteners and metal screws on both sides of the high chairs can loosen and fall out, allowing the seat back to detach or recline unexpectedly. As a result, children can fall backwards or out of the seat or choke on the detached hardware.
  • Hill Sportswear Hooded Sweatshirt -- There was one reported death of a three-year-old boy who was strangled when the drawstring of the sweatshirt he was wearing became stuck on a playground swing.
  • Simplicity Bassinets, including those with Graco or Winnie the Pooh motif -- There are at least three deaths involving Simplicity bassinets. The metal bars in the Simplicity 3-in-1 and 4-in-1 convertible bassinets are covered by an adjustable fabric flap which is attached by Velcro and folded down when the bassinet is repositioned. If the Velcro is not properly fastened when the flap is readjusted, an infant may slip through the opening between the metal bars and suffocate.
  • Simplicity Drop Side Cribs -- There have been 10 known deaths associated with this product. The drop side can detach, creating a space between the side and the mattress. Infants and toddlers can be entrapped in this space and suffocate.

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October 5, 2009

Florida Woman First Fosamax Multidistrict Litigation Plaintiff

Ironically, 71-year-old Shirley Boles took Fosamax (the brand name for alendronate) to increase her bone density, but instead the Walton Beach, Florida woman found her jawbone deteriorating, her teeth loosening, and her gums turning black. This condition resulting in jawbone death is known as osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ).

Boles took Fosamax from 1997 to 2006 and asserts that Merck, the manufacturer, failed to warn doctors about the relationship between the drug and ONJ. There are now approximately 900 plaintiffs participating in the class action against Merck. This first lawsuit is being heard this month in the US District Court in Manhattan.

A study performed at the University of Southern California School of Dentistry and reported in the Journal of the American Dental Association (Jan. 1, 2009) found that 1 in 23 of the 208 patients studied taking alendronate had active ONJ. Researchers noted that even short-term use of alendronate was correlated with ONJ in some patients after certain dental procedures.

According to an article in USA Today (March 13, 2005) the chairman of the division of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the University of Miami, Robert Marx, stated that he knew of 40-50 cases of ONJ nationwide in patients who had taken Fosamax.

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