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Attorney David Matthews named to Infant Formula Executive Committee

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Attorney David Matthews has been named to the infant formula MDL plaintiffs’ executive committee by U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer in Chicago.

Mr. Matthews is among a small group of experienced lawyers who will lead infant formula necrotizing entercolitis (NEC) lawsuits. These suits allege cow’s milk-based infant formulas have sickened or killed premature babies. The Houston-based attorney was chosen by the judge because his firm has filed several of the NEC cases. In addition, he has been handling multi-district litigation in federal courts for more than two decades.

U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer in the Northern District of Illinois named the lawyers last week who will lead more than 60 lawsuits (so far) against Abbott Laboratories and Mead Johnson. Abbott makes Similac, while Mead Johnson makes Enfamil. The companies’ premature infant formulas are believed to cause serious health problems such as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).

Judge Pallmeyer’s order said the team she chose for the cases was comprised of attorneys who had filed most of the cases and brought the most experience.

“We are confident that our group of experienced lawyers will aggressively represent parents and their children who were injured by cow’s milk-based formula and fortifiers in preterm infants,” said Mr. Matthews.

Infant Formula Lawsuits allege that the infant formula has caused a gastrointestinal inflammation called necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC. They are separate from lawsuits filed against Abbott over a Feb. 17 formula recall tied to a plant it runs in Michigan. Lawyers on both sides have asked the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to coordinate those cases.

Scientific literature has shown infant formulas designed for preterm babies cause significantly higher rates of necrotizing enterocolitis, a serious gastrointestinal inflammatory disease often requiring emergency surgery. NEC has a 25-50% mortality rate in preterm infants. 

Necrotizing Enterocolitis

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a condition in which intestines become highly inflamed, which severely injures the gut wall barrier. The resulting necrosis (tissue death) or holes in the gut wall barrier, can cause dangerous bacteria to “leak” out of the intestines. Emergency surgery may then be the only way to save the child.

NEC can occur in full-term infants, but preterm infants are five-times more likely to develop it. Infant formula based on cow’s milk may be the reason. Some of the most common bovine milk-based preterm infant formulas are Special Care and Enfamil NueroPro Enfacare.

Premature babies unable to breastfeed are given milk formulas. Premature babies typically don’t have the strength or coordination they need to perform the “suck-swallow-breathe” rhythm. As a result, preterm infants often begin feedings via intravenous delivery or enteral feeds of either the mother’s own human milk, human donor milk, or preterm infant formula. Premature babies may also require supplementation not provided by human milk or standard formula. Some doctors recommend adding more supplementation, either “fortifiers” with human milk or fortifiers made from cow-based (bovine) milk. 

Why use Bovine Milk-based Formulas in Preterm Infants?

Though human breast milk has distinct benefits over infant formula, hospitals often use cow’s milk-based formulas for convenience. Cow’s milk-based infant formulas are easy for hospitals to find and store. Many human milk-based products require refrigeration and are more difficult to store.

Cow’s milk-based infant formula is also much less expensive than human milk or human donor milk products. Human milk can cost more than 40 times more than cow’s milk-based formula.

Cow’s Milk presents problems for Premie Babies

Researchers have found that preterm babies fed bovine-based infant formula are significantly more likely to develop necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) than those fed human milk-based products. 

Preterm Baby’s Gastrointestinal System insufficiently developed to Safely Digest Cow-Based Milk Formula

The infant’s gastrointestinal system plays a critical role in the development of immunity and nutrition. The intestines contain an entire microbiota of bacteria that a baby needs to not only digest beneficial foods and nutrients, but also to protect the baby from harmful foods and pathogens.

Because a premature infant’s gestation period is shorter than normal, its system is not as developed as a full-term baby’s. The undeveloped stomach and intestines lack many of the beneficial bacteria normally present at full-term. 

An Important Prebiotic Found in Human Milk (Oligosaccharides) is completely missing from Bovine-Based Formula

Foods in nature often come bundled with nutrients that serve to aide in digestion, and human breast milk is no different. Many beneficial components in human milk naturally help a preterm infant breakdown and digest the nutrients inside. One of those beneficial components is oligosaccharides, a critically important prebiotic that stimulates the growth of the highly beneficial probiotic, bifidobacteria.

In a word, premature infants do not have the proper prebiotics and “good” bacteria needed to safely digest cow’s milk-based formulas.


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by Matthews & Associates

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