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[April 02, 2007]

'Caffeine toxicity' killed teen Wallingford parents want labeling on 'No-Doz' tablets

(New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Apr. 2--WALLINGFORD -- The parents of a 19-year-old town resident whose death last November was linked to taking nearly two dozen No-Doz caffeine tablets are making a public appeal to have better warning labels placed on the product or to have it sold as a prescription medicine.

James Stone died Nov. 27 of a heart attack brought on by what the state's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner termed "caffeine toxicity." Now Stone's parents, James Stone Sr. and his wife, Diane, say they want to warn the public that an overdose of caffeine can carry serious consequences.

"I don't want any other parent to go through what my wife and I have been through," James Stone Sr. said. "It does not say on the bottle that it will kill you. It says right on the box that it's like a cup of coffee."

Their son's physician, Dr. Anthony Lendino, said he would ask Attorney General Richard Blumenthal this week for his help in getting some safeguard in place to protect consumers from taking too much of the drug.

"This was responsible for a kid who was otherwise pretty healthy dying unnecessarily," the Meriden-based physician said. "We've pulled other stuff off the market for less."

James Stone was in the process of intense job hunting and was using the caffeine pills to stay awake during his search, his family said. He collapsed at home, they said.

The drug company that sells No-Doz, Novartis, insists the product is safe and that the labeling of the tablets is entirely appropriate.

"To our knowledge, there have not been any deaths caused by our product, which has been on the market for over 50 years," said Julie Masow, a Novartis spokeswoman. "It has been proven safe and effective by the FDA as an over-the-counter product."

Blumenthal, who has not yet spoken to Lendino but was informed of the doctor's intention by the Register, said Stone's death is "alarming and troubling," and he would be willing to look at the case, including the possibility that if a direct link were found with potentially fatal side effects, there should be more limited access to products containing very high levels of caffeine, or that such products should contain "very serious warning labels."

"Regardless of its legal status, we should certainly review labeling and availability," Blumenthal said.

Although Lendino said Stone's death is the first time he had ever heard of a death caused by a caffeine overdose, further research he did following Stone's death turned up a 1998 incident in which a college student died after swallowing a whole bottle of No-Doz on a dare.

"You can't tell me that they (Novartis) didn't know about this," Lendino said.

Masow said the company recommends that "as with all over-thecounter products, consumers read the instructions on the label."

The No-Doz label warns against taking any more than one tablet every three or for hours.

But that hasn't stopped consumers around the country from allegedly becoming ill from the product. A search of Internet data bases turned up an alleged November 2005 incident in which four students at Sandburg High School in Illinois were hospitalized after taking too much No-Doz.

If a ban of the product in Connecticut cannot be enacted, then Lendino and the Stone family would like No-Doz to come with a more accurate warning.

"I think there should be some kind of warning that these kinds of problemscanoccur,"Lendinosaid. "We (doctors) tell people who've had high blood pressure or a heart attack not to us too much caffeine. So clearly, the consequences of too much caffeine are serious."'

James Stone Sr. said he and his wife aren't looking to sue Novartis.

"I'm not looking for any money or any sympathy," Stone said. "I just don't think it's right that people don't know that this kind of thing can happen."

Blumenthal said he admires the "public spiritedness" of the Stone family and while further investigation remains necessary, it can be true that a "single incident or tragedy can be a wakeup call in a very serious and profound way."

Copyright (c) 2007, New Haven Register, Conn.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.
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