Last Wednesday, the New York Times published an article that caused some stir: the Food and Drug Administration, it said, was investigating a possible link between 13 deaths and the popular energy shot 5-Hour Energy. The drink, which is distributed by Living Essentials, LLC, purports to give consumers a steady five hours of healthy energy. Following the Times report, 5-Hour Energy President Manoj Bhargava strongly denied the claims that his drink is responsible for any deaths, citing the lack of any evidence to support the accusations. So far, there is no indication that any consumers are seeking damages from Living Essentials, though that could well change if more similar reports surface.
The energy shot known as 5-Hour Energy first hit the market in 2004. Its offer of five hours of steady, non-jittery energy with only two ounces of liquid and four calories resonated throughout the United States. Consumers took to the drink by the millions, making 5-Hour Energy a billion-dollar business by 2011. A recent marketing study conducted by Forbes suggests that 5-Hour Energy maintains 90% of the entire energy drinks market.
Manoj Bhargava is credited as the founder of 5-Hour Energy and is the president of the company, Living Essentials, which makes and distributes the drink throughout the U.S. Bhargava moved to the United States from India in 1967. 5-Hour Energy’s success earned him the title of the richest Indian in the U.S., with an estimated net worth of $4 billion.
Now Bhargava’s product is under speculation by the FDA, who says the drink may possibly be behind 13 deaths and vast number of hospitalizations. Though the details of those 13 deaths are not fully available, reports suggest many of them were the result of heart problems, including heart attacks. One Florida man, only 41 years of age, says 5-Hour Energy is likely responsible for his own cardiovascular brush with death.
A FDA representative reported that as many as 90 cases of adverse side effects filed with the FDA list 5-Hour Energy as the cause for various ailments. Of those cases, over 30 had to do with critical side effects, such as heart attacks and premature births (though the product bears the warning that pregnant women should not use the drink). In addition, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released documents that say over 10,000 people in 2009 went to the emergency room after consuming energy drinks in general.
Caffeine, which is a main ingredient in 5-Hour Energy and most other energy drinks, may partially be at fault. Since caffeine is known to dehydrate users who do not adequately consume a steady supply of water, they may be more at risk for health conditions, such as heart attacks. Bhargava, reportedly, does not believe this sentiment. He said in a statement, “Caffeine is a good thing. The only things that we get about caffeine is from reporters, who really have no clue what caffeine does.” Bhargava called claims that his product causes heart problems “just false,” saying, “[reporters] should not be making this mistake” and are “just after some money.”