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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Lactase Safe, Despite Newspaper's Mistake

I check through all the newspaper articles that contain the word lactose, just to see if there's any interesting news I can pass on to you.

Today I ran across Top trial lawyer wins big, spends big by Andrew Wolfson in the respected Louisville Courier-Journal.

The article is a big love letter to attorney Larry Franklin, a trial lawyer who gets big settlements for clients. His clients sound horribly hurt and terrifically appealing, like the little girl who got her legs severed on an amusement park ride. This isn't a rant against evil trial lawyers.

What drew my attention to the article was this eye-popping claim buried 29 paragraphs deep into the story:

And in 2004, he and Hance won a $19.2 million verdict against Sandoz Pharmaceuticals and other defendants for marketing a lactose suppressant that they showed caused 32-year-old grocery clerk Mary Gunderson to suffer a fatal seizure after childbirth.

A "lactose suppressant"? Could that mean lactase? I've never in history heard of a serious side effect from lactase. I didn't understand how I could have missed this, but this was huge news that I had to pass on.

Fortunately for you, I checked the claim first before repeating it.

The real story, as reported on the LouisvilleLaw.com site, is that Mary Gunderson had been given Parlodel, a postpartum lactation suppressant.
Mary Gunderson died suddenly in her sleep one week following the Caesarean birth of her second child. She had been given Parlodel, a postpartum lactation suppressant. The drug had a history of adverse reactions including seizures, strokes and heart attacks dating back to 1983. Plaintiffs prevailed at trial for a total judgment exceeding $19 million, including more than $11 million in punitive damages against manufacturer Sandoz. Sandoz and the prescribing physician appeal.

Parlodel is a serious drug for a serious problem. What's important for you in my audience is to remember that it has no, repeat, no connection to lactose or lactase or lactose intolerance.

Just another case of a reporter misunderstanding a fact new to him and having nobody in the chain of command above him noticing the mistake.

Happens all the time, unfortunately.

Remember. Doublecheck all facts and claims, even those made by legitimate reporters working for well-regarded news sources. They can't be expected to understand or transcribe perfectly every detail of every profession that they encounter, things that are new to them on a daily basis.

Don't let a trivial error panic you. Medications are serious, and problems do occur. Lactase, however, is not a drug. It is also about as safe as anything you can put into your mouth can possibly be.

That hasn't changed. Be happy.

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