5-Hour Energy May be Linked to Deaths, FDA Investigates

The drink 5-Hour Energy is viewed for sale at a grocery store in New York City.

The drink 5-Hour Energy is viewed for sale at a grocery store in New York City.  (Getty)

Federal health authorities are investigating reports of 13 deaths possibly linked to so-called energy shots, all while cautioning consumers to talk to their doctors before consuming similar drinks.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received 92 reports over four years that cite illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths after drinking a product marketed as 5-Hour Energy. The FDA has also received reports citing the highly caffeinated Monster Energy Drink in five deaths and one nonfatal heart attack.

Agency officials stated the reports do not necessarily prove that the drinks cause deaths or injuries. However, they are investigating each one. In a statement, FDA officials said they will take action if the deaths can be linked to the consumption of energy drinks. Such action could result in forcing companies to take the drinks off the market. The drinks are currently found at convenience stores.

FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess said the agency is cautioning consumers that these energy shots or drinks are not alternatives to rest.

“If someone is thinking about taking one of these products, they should consult with their health care provider to ensure that there are no underlying or undiagnosed medical conditions that could worsen as a result of using them,” said Burgess.

The agency does not individually regulate caffeinated drinks or supplements, but it can take action if they are proven to do harm. Makers of caffeinated alcoholic drinks took those products off the market in 2010 after the FDA sent the companies warning letters saying that combinations of caffeine and alcohol were a public health concern, leading to alcohol poisoning, car accidents and assaults.

The 5-Hour Energy’s small size can also be dangerous to consumers because it’s easier to take several of them or mix them with alcohol. The 5-Hour Energy shot is marketed as a dietary supplement. FDA regulations require supplement manufacturers to be responsible for products’ safety.

A spokeswoman for Michigan-based Living Essentials, LLC, manufacturer for 5-Hour Energy, states it is a “compact-sized energy shot intended for busy adults — it is not an energy drink, nor marketed as a beverage.”

Elaine Lutz said the company is not aware of any deaths proven to have been caused by their product. She said the company’s website advises consumers to drink more than two bottles per day, spaced several hours apart, and for new consumers to drink half a bottle to start

Democratic Senators Richard Durbin of Illinois and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut went to the Senate floor Thursday to complain about the lack of FDA oversight of energy drinks.

"For God's sake, these are on sale to kids throughout America," said Durbin.

The New York Times first reported that 13 deaths were linked to 5-Hour Energy.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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