Posted On: February 22, 2011

Parents Lose Vaccine Case in Supreme Court

The Supreme Court says parents whose children allegedly are injured by vaccine shots cannot sue the manufacturer in court even if the special federal panel set up to compensate vaccine injury victims rejects their claim.

Robalee and Russell Bruesewitz of Pittsburgh, filed a lawsuit for their daughter, Hannah, after their claim in the federal vaccine court was rejected. They say she was a healthy infant until she received the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP) vaccine in April 1992. The vaccine was made by Wyeth, now owned by Pfizer, Inc. Within hours of getting the DPT shot, the third in a series of five, the baby suffered a series of debilitating seizures. Hannah continues to suffer from residual seizure disorder and has developmental problems and cannot care for herself.

Congress set up a special federal "no fault" compensation system in 1986, putting a small tax on each unit of vaccine sold. The system has paid $1.9 billion to families since then, but the vaccine court ruled that the Bruesewitz family didn't have enough evidence that their daughter's seizures were caused by the vaccine.

That form of the DTP vaccine was later taken off the market.

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for six justices, said Congress intended to bar all suits against manufacturers other than the non-fault cases in the federal vaccine court. Two other justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, disagreed. Nothing in the 1986 law "remotely suggests that Congress intended such a result," Sotomayor wrote.

David Frederick, who represented the Bruesewitz family at the Supreme Court, said, "I'm disappointed for the families of victims of defectively designed vaccines, who now have no remedy at law for their injuries."

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Posted On: February 21, 2011

Almost 10,000 crib and playpen injuries a year, study says, but will Congress roll back safeguards?

Nearly 10,000 infants and toddlers are hurt in crib and playpen accidents each year, according to a recent study.

The release of the study coincides with a U.S. House subcommittee hearing on February 24 on consumer product safety issues during which the subject of cribs is expected to come up. The American Academy of Pediatrics opposes loosening crib regulations and is concerned that the industry may seek to roll back parts of a 2008 law which called for mandatory crib standards, including more rigorous safety testing, noting that this peer-reviewed study indicates why such a rollback would be a step backward.

The study, which was released in the journal Pediatrics, examined 19 years of Emergency Department data and is the first nationwide analysis of ER treatment for crib and playpen injuries. Researchers found a gradual decrease in the injury rate between 1990 and 2008; they also found that recent safety measures including a ban on drop-side cribs appear to be having a positive impact.

Still, better prevention efforts are needed since, even in the most recent years examined, an “unacceptable” average of 26 infants daily were injured in crib-related accidents, says study lead author Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Most injuries were from falls in toddlers between ages 1 and 2. According to the study, 181,654 infants were injured between 1990 and 2008, though most children were not hospitalized. The data also reveal 2,140 deaths, not including crib-related deaths in children who didn't receive treatment in the ER.

The 2008 law called for mandatory crib standards, including more rigorous safety testing. The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission mandate, which takes effect in June 2011, bans the manufacture and sale of traditional drop-side cribs with side rails that move up and down to make it easier to place and remove infants. The movable rails can become partially detached, creating a gap between the mattress and rail where babies can get stuck. Dozens of injuries and deaths including suffocations have been linked with drop-side cribs, and millions of such cribs have already been recalled.

Source: Washington Post

You can view a copy of the study abstract here.

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Posted On: February 18, 2011

Fetal heart rate monitoring significantly cuts baby deaths

The use of fetal heart rate monitors lowers the rate of infant mortality, according to a new study. Previous studies were too small to definitively prove the effectiveness of fetal monitoring, and some obstetricians maintained that the technology had been adopted too quickly.

But the new study, which was presented at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's (SMFM) annual meeting in San Francisco, used data from the 2004 National Birth Cohort to get a large enough sample (1,945,789 singleton births that met the studies inclusion criteria) to gauge its effectiveness.

The study found that in 2004, 88% of singleton pregnancies had fetal heart-rate monitoring and associated the monitoring with significantly lower infant mortality (3.8 per thousand live births without monitoring vs. 3.0 with monitoring), which in turn was mainly driven by a 53% decrease in early neonatal mortality. The decreased risk was associated with both low- and high-risk pregnancies.

Source: Science Daily

You’ll find an abstract of the study here.

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Posted On: February 10, 2011

Vaccines for Kids: Latest Recommendations

Here are the latest recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on childhood vaccinations. Immunization shots took a bad, and unjustified, rap for their never proven connection to autism. These vaccines are necessary to prevent some very serious and even fatal infectious diseases.

The official chart of vaccines for kids under age 6 is here:

And this is the chart for children from age 7 to 18:

You can read all the explanations and footnotes at the CDC website here.

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Posted On: February 9, 2011

Governments plan to make polio a disease of the past

Two U.S. government agencies - the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) - joined the World Health Organization WHO) and the Russian Ministry of Health and Social Development to sign the global protocol of intent to eradicate polio wherever it occurs. The agreement also has the support of international charity organizations, such as Rotary International, and will reach out to communities throughout the world.

Polio has long been eradicated in North America due to successful vaccination programs, but outbreaks of this highly infectious crippling disease continue to occur in some central Asian and African countries. And because polio is extremely contagious, there is always a risk of it being transmitted to countries where it no longer exists or was thought to be eradicated, including the U.S. Since this poses a risk to unvaccinated children, the goal of the agreement is to eradicate all strains of polio.

Since 2006, only four countries - Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan - remain polio-endemic with indigenous poliovirus circulation. Additionally, in four African countries wild poliovirus was either known (Angola, Chad) or suspected (Democratic Republic of the Congo, southern Sudan) to have persisted for for more than 12 months as of mid-2009, leading to their designation as having “re-established” transmission.

Unfortunately, the list does not end there, as the following countries have had imported polio cases or cases related to an imported poliovirus within the past 24 months: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ghana, Guinea, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Nepal, Niger, Russia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tajikistan, Togo, Turkmenistan and Uganda.

Source: USAID

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Posted On: February 8, 2011

Caps threaten $19.2 million jury award to family of preemie who received overdose

A jury recently awarded $19.2 million to a Florida couple whose premature infant daughter received a massive overdose of nutrients at a Fort Myers hospital, but the family may never see most of it due to a cap on liability. The little girl is in a wheelchair for life and nearly blind due to the negligence of the hospital staff.

The cap, which is based on the concept of “sovereign immunity,” applies to public institutions, including public healthcare systems. (HealthPark Medical Center, where the event occurred, is part of the Lee Memorial Health System, a public health care system created by a special act of the Florida Legislature.) Sovereign immunity means that an employee, officer, or agent of the state and local governments is not held personally liable for negligence committed during the scope of his or her employment or function, unless the employee acts in bad faith or with malicious purpose. Instead, the state takes the place of the employee and defends the claim.

In Florida, sovereign immunity also limits the amount of recovery in any claim against the state to $100,000 per person and $200,000 per incident. (Effective Oct. 1, 2011, the limits will rise to $200,000 per person and $300,000 per incident.)

The verdict came after a two-week trial for medical negligence brought against the Lee Memorial Health System by the parents of Kiarra Summer Smith, who was born in 2007 weighing 1.5 pounds and 3 months premature. Kiarra was give a formula of neonatal nutrition including amino acids and carbohydrates as well as vitamins and trace minerals based upon her body weight. When she was 15 days old, the pharmacy misread an updated physician order sheet and calculated the dosage of trace elements as if it were for a person weighing about 160 pounds. As a result, Kiarra received a dose of trace elements, including zinc, copper, manganese and others, about 100 times larger than she should have.

The lawsuit states Kiarra’s body fluids became highly acidic and she went into cardiac arrest, requiring cardiopulmonary resuscitation and transfusion of all the blood in her body. She also suffered a brain hemmorhage. The long-term result is Kiarra has permanent neurological damage, a type of cerebral palsy where all four extremities are spastic, and is nearly blind. She also is completely disabled and in a wheelchair.

Lee Memorial admitted negligence but denied the overdose caused damage. “Although Lee Memorial Health System accepts responsibility for this unfortunate event, we believe the verdict is excessive and against the greater weight of the evidence,” a Lee spokeswoman said after the trial. “We admitted error in administrating nutrition but we believe strongly that this was not the cause of the child’s condition.”

To overcome Lee Memorial’s sovereign immunity protection, a specific bill would have to be passed by the Florida Legislature, which could only happen after all appeals had been exhausted, which could take years.

Source: Fort Myers News-Press

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Posted On: February 3, 2011

Caffeine-laced energy drinks worry researchers

A review of studies about the contents of energy beverages has raised serious questions about their efficacy and safety. The review, published in the November issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, noted that the drinks contain high levels of caffeine and could pose dangerous, even life-threatening effects on blood pressure, heart rate and brain function to some susceptible individuals.

The study found four documented cases of caffeine-associated death and five separate cases of seizures associated with consumption of energy/power drinks. Other reports included: (1) an otherwise healthy 28-year-old man who suffered a cardiac arrest after a day of motocross racing; (2) a healthy 18-year-old man who died playing basketball after drinking two cans of Red Bull; and (3) four cases of mania experienced by individuals known to have bipolar disorder.

Noting that teens and young adults are consuming energy drinks “at an alarming rate,” the study authors said it was important to determine whether long-term use of these beverages “will translate into deleterious effects later,” such as liver and cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and diabetes.

Currently, the drinks are labeled as “dietary supplements,” which exempts them from regulations governing sodas and juices and allows manufacturers to make “ “structure and function” claims, like “enhances athletic performance” and “increases caloric burn and mental sharpness.”

The American Beverage Association says most mainstream energy drink brands voluntarily put statements on their containers, including advisories about use by people sensitive to caffeine, and many also list the amount of caffeine on their product labels or have provided caffeine content information through their Web sites and consumer hot lines.

But the study authors worry that some athletes who exercise intensively are substituting energy drinks for sport drinks (which only contain sugar and electrolytes). They say the high doses of sugar in energy drinks can impair absorption of fluids and result in dehydration, noting that a 16-ounce can of an energy drink may contain 13 teaspoons of sugar and the amount of caffeine found in four or more colas.

Source: The New York Times

You can view an abstract of the study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings here.

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