5-Hour Energy drink possibly involved in more than a dozen deaths

Caffeinated drink cited in reports of 13 deaths

Federal officials say they received reports of more than a dozen deaths possibly involving 5-Hour Energy, a highly caffeinated energy drink.


The New York Attorney General’s office is investigating claims the energy drink led to 13 deaths and 33 hospitalizations, in the past four years.


It is the second time in recent weeks that FDA filings cite energy drinks related to deaths.  The FDA is also investigating five reported deaths possibly related to Monster Energy Drink.


Life moves fast, and the $9 billion dollar energy drink industry has taken note.


According to Beverage Digest, the energy drinks are the fastest growing segment in the soft drink industry, with a 17-percent increase in sales last year.  In fact, for the first time in its history, Red Bull is introducing new flavors on Black Friday.


“It’s so convenient and it packs such a concentrated shot of caffeine," said Billy Van Heusen, owner of Max Muscle Sports Nutrition and Emerge Cafe at Forza Fitness and Performance Center in downtown Denver.  "People assume that more is better and get in trouble with that.  If one works good, I bet two will be twice as good.”


That's the wrong attitude said Van Heusen.  He points to the warning label on the bottle which he says indicates little oversight of products like 5-Hour-Energy by the FDA.


"Unfortunately, they don’t have to tell you exactly how many milligrams of caffeine are in here,” he said.


Van Heusen said kids are particularly vulnerable.  "It's a parents job to educate them and just let their kids know about the dangers of over consumption."


This isn’t the first time highly caffeinated drinks have made headlines.  7NEWS was first to tell you about Spike energy drinks which hospitalized dozens of kids at Aurora's Smokey Hill High School and Doherty High School in Colorado Springs in 2007.


“It was actually hurting a bunch of people and speeding up their heart rates and making them sick," said one student at the time.  "I had a friend who actually ended up puking and had to go to the hospital for it.”


The company that makes 5-Hour-Energy, Living Essentials, said it takes "reports of any potential adverse event tied to our products very seriously..." and it has "...complied with all (FDA) reporting requirements."


“Do you sell this stuff?” 7NEWS asked Van Heusen.


“We don’t because there are better ways to promote healthy energy throughout the day,” he said.  "Every now and then a quick pick-me-up is okay, but don't abuse it.  Fuel your body naturally with the right amount of proteins and carbs throughout the day."