May 2010 Archives

May 26, 2010

Florida Parents Beware: Drop-Side Cribs Soon to be Banned Nationwide

Drop-side cribs are dangerous. That is the message Congress wants parents to know. The tragic death of a 6-month old baby boy from Long Island, New York, is a grim example. The infant became trapped and suffocated when the side rail on his drop-side crib malfunctioned. At least 32 babies in the last 10 years have suffocated or were strangled in drop-side cribs. In addition, 14 infant fatalities have been linked to drop-side cribs in that time frame.

According to reports, efforts have been made in Congress to prohibit the making, selling and reselling of all drop-side cribs and to ban them from establishments such as hotels and day care facilities. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is taking action to get the ban underway and is urging parents to understand the dangers of using drop-side cribs. The Consumer Product Safety Commission plans to make fixed-side cribs the new standard and to ban the sale and manufacture of drop-side cribs by the end of 2010.

Since 2005, over 7 million drop-side cribs have been recalled, usually due to malfunctioning hardware which can cause the drop-side rail to loosen or break. When the rail becomes detached, it creates a space between the side rail and mattress where a baby can get trapped and become strangled or suffocate. Although the crib industry favored fixed-side over drop-side cribs last year by voting to do away with the drop-side design, it is not yet mandatory for crib manufacturers to make only fixed-side cribs.

Some retailers, including Wal-Mart and Babies R Us, have already stopped selling drop-side cribs. Despite the warnings from the CPSC and Congress, drop-side cribs are still widely available online. Parents and caretakers should be aware of the dangers in using drop-side cribs and should avoiding using them at all costs.

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May 18, 2010

Deadly Hammocks: Florida Teen's Strangulation Shocks Broward County

A 13-year-old Davie boy has died after he was found with a hammock wrapped around his neck on May 2. The young man's father found him in his room entangled in the hammock and attempted to revive him through CPR. At the hospital, the young man was placed in a medically-induced coma, but never recovered. How he became entangled in the hammock and his exact cause of death are still being investigated according to reports.

Although the details of how this tragic death occurred remain unclear, hammocks have a history of being strangulation risks. This risk is especially prevalent in devices characterized as baby- or mini-hammocks which consist of light weight, nylon mesh and do not employ a spreader bar. These hammocks have been identified as strangulation and suffocation risks to babies and young children by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) for years and have undergone numerous recalls. The risk stems from a defective design that fails to provide a spreader bar to keep the mesh from pulling tight into a single rope which children can become entangled in while getting into and out of the hammock.

The death of this young man, while extremely tragic, is not unprecedented. In 2008, an eight-year-old Indiana boy reportedly died after a hammock he and his brothers were playing on became wrapped around his neck causing suffocation. Twelve children between the ages of 5 and 17 years old died after becoming entangled in mini-hammocks without spreader bars from 1984 to 1995 according to the CPSC.

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May 17, 2010

Warning: Driving With Automobile Seats Reclined Can Cause Death

If you like reclining your seat back when riding in a car, you should be aware of the danger in doing so. Last month a federal jury in Texas awarded $1.8 million to the family of a young woman who lost her life in a car accident while riding as a passenger with her seat fully reclined. It is recommended that automobile seats should not be reclined past a 45 degree angle while traveling because the seat belt system becomes less effective and places the passenger at a greater risk of injury or death.

In July 2007, 19-year-old Sarah Goodner was napping in the front seat of a Hyundai Tucson driven by her sister when the SUV rolled over. Goodner was ejected from the vehicle even though she was wearing her seatbelt. According to trial evidence, Goodner slid out from under the lap belt. The jury blamed Hyundai for "using a defective reclining seat system." Goodner's attorney said Hyundai did not use safety technology that would keep seats from being reclined further than a 45 degree angle or use a system that would bring a tilted seat back to its upright position if an automobile accident occurs. Hyundai attorneys argued that the vehicle driven by Goodner's sister met vehicle standards and had a 5-star safety rating. They also argued that people should read the fine print in the owner's manual.

Reclining one's seat to extreme angles while traveling in a vehicle is extremely unsafe. At greater than a 45 degree angle, the seatbelt straps ride higher up on the body than they are supposed to, causing the upper strap to sit near or on the neck and the lower strap to sit closer to the stomach. This can be dangerous during a car accident because the force against the seat belt could cause injuries such as internal bleeding . In addition to risking injuries from the seatbelts, the positioning of the body at these angles makes it more susceptible to serious spinal cord injury or even death, as in Sarah Goodner's case.

In the late 1980's, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration research the risk of seat reclining, but the NHTSA dismissed the request, in part because the owner's manuals offered warnings to consumers about the potential risk. Despite the concern from the NTSB, warning labels on automobile seats have yet to become a requirement for auto makers.

Concerned consumers should check their vehicle's owner's manual and ensure they are properly using all safety equipment before operating the automobile. It is also important for people to understand the dangers of reclining one's car seat and to keep that in mind while riding in a vehicle.

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May 10, 2010

Drug Alert: Patients Using Certain Anticonvulsant Drugs may be at Risk of Suicide

Users of some well-known anticonvulsant drugs may be at risk of committing or attempting suicide, according to researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last month.

The study researched records of over 297,000 patients who took anticonvulsants between 2001 and 2006 and were 15 years of age or older. The analysis revealed 801 attempted suicides, 26 suicides and 41 violent deaths in the first 60 days of patients taking anticonvulsant drugs. This research comes after a 2008 FDA drug warning on anticonvulsants in which the FDA made it mandatory for anticonvulsant drug manufacturers to have a warning about suicidal risks on product labels. The FDA took action after nearly 200 studies were conducted on 11 different medications. The studies revealed that patients who took anticonvulsants doubled their risk of suicide.

Neurontin, manufactured by Pfizer and Novartis's Trileptal were among the drugs researchers found to increase suicide risk by as much as double in people taking these drugs for the first time.

GlaxoSmithKline's Lamictal, and Gabitril, made by Cephalon were also found to increase suicide risk. It is uncertain as to why some anticonvulsant drugs raise the risk of suicide, but it is known that these drugs cause behavior and mood changes.

Anticonvulsant drugs are commonly used by patients with epilepsy; however, drugs such as Lamictal have also been marketed to treat conditions including bipolar disorder and migraine headaches.

The FDA allows doctors to prescribe any medicine they consider suitable for any condition, which means doctors may prescribe drugs off-label (meaning prescribing it for uses unapproved by the FDA) if they think it's necessary. Drug manufacturers, on the other hand, are only allowed to market the drugs for uses that are FDA-approved. However, drug manufacturers don't always follow FDA guidelines for marketing drugs. Earlier this year, in January, Novartis paid a 185 million dollar fine for off-label marketing of the epilepsy drug Trileptal.

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May 6, 2010

Baxter Ordered to Recall & Destroy Defective Medical Pumps

Baxter International has been instructed to recall and destroy its Colleague line of hospital infusion pumps because of what has been described by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as "a long-standing failure" on the part of Baxter to correct numerous defects of the medical device. Although the FDA has for years tried to work with Baxter to correct the pump problems, the agency found Baxter's most recently submitted plan to address the defects was unacceptable because it exposed patients to potential injury for too long a time. The recall will affect about 200,000 pumps according to a Baxter spokesperson.

Infusion pumps are used to deliver timed and calibrated amounts of fluids and medication to hospital patients. However, the Baxter Colleague pumps, which have been labeled by the FDA as causing "persistent safety problems", have been the subject of previous recalls for defects such as battery problems, inadvertent shut-off, and other potentially dangerous or fatal errors.

The FDA has documented approximately 56,000 reports over a five year period of complications with infusion pumps in general including serious injury and more than 500 deaths. Although not all of these incidents are linked to the defective Baxter pumps, in 2005, the FDA confiscated 7000 Colleague pumps after receiving adverse incident reports of 16 patient injuries and seven deaths associated with the defective Baxter device. Hospira, a competing manufacturer and maker of the Symbiq infusion pump, also recently announced it was withholding shipment of its infusion pump amid customer complaints of defective alarming devices.

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