ANALYSIS: REPORTS OF NEW YORK AND FLORIDA “KRATOM DEATHS”
ARE UNSUPPORTED BY FACTS
WASHINGTON, D.C. – October 12, 2017 – Medical examiners and coroners in two New York and Florida deaths erred when they attributed the cause of death in both cases to the non-opioid, coffee-like botanical kratom, according to an independent analysis issued today by a molecular biologist and lawyer.
The new analysis debunks false claims about kratom made in connection with the deaths of police Sgt. Matthew Dana in Tupper Lake, New York, and Christopher Waldron in Hillsborough County, Florida. The report by lawyer and molecular biologist Jane K. Babin, PhD, molecular biology, Purdue University, and JD, University of San Diego School of Law, concludes: “Both of these cases appear to add to the long list of mistaken, inaccurate, and now discredited reports implicating kratom … Because so many questions surrounding Sgt. Dana’s death remain unanswered, any reasonable person should refrain from drawing conclusions on the role of kratom or mitragynine in his death until full autopsy and toxicology reports are made available to the public ….”
In shifting to the Florida death report, the Babin report concludes: “[T]here is precedent for the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner getting it wrong in high profile cases. It singled out a more controversial substance (cocaine) as the cause of the heart disease that killed OxiClean pitchman, Billy Mays, despite finding painkillers, anti-anxiety drugs and alcohol in his system at the time of his death. A second autopsy, commissioned by the family, demonstrated that ‘the autopsy specimens and findings were not consistent with the cardiac conditions normally observed in a person chronically using cocaine’ and concluded that cocaine was not the cause of Mr. Mays’ death. Based on the totality of circumstances, any reasonable person could be confident that kratom did not kill Christopher Waldron any more than cocaine killed Billy Mays.”
In discussing the Dana and Waldron cases in more detail, Dr. Babin noted: “Let’s first look at the death of Sgt. Matthew Dana of Tupper Lake, New York. Death from hemorrhagic pulmonary edema (HPE) is rare and has never been reported in conjunction with kratom use in humans or animals. In this case, the coroner and medical examiner erred in not analyzing blood for substances other than opioids and narcotics including cocaine and anabolic steroids, which could have caused the death. Medical literature does provide links between the use of anabolic steroids and hemorrhagic pulmonary edema. No such literature exists to link kratom to that condition.”
Dr. Babin continued: “The second case involved Christopher Waldron, Hillsborough County, Florida. Waldron died with mitragynine, a potentially toxic amount of citalopram, and cyclobenzaprine (which is contraindicated in combination with citalopram) in his blood. Both of these prescription medicines contain specific warnings required in FDA labeling that, if used in combination, can cause coma and even death. Mr. Waldron also had left ventricular hypertrophy, an enlarged liver, and thyroid disease, which may have contributed to his death.”
Babin’s specialty areas include biotechnology, molecular biology, biochemistry, immunology, pharmaceuticals, genomics, pharmacogenomics, proteomics, and related law.
Toxicologist Karl V. Ebner, PhD, consultant, KETox Forensic Toxicology Consulting, Okemus, MI., said: “While I did not author this report, I have had the opportunity to review it. And what I see here are very troubling indications that these deaths may have been incorrectly attributed to kratom in the face of other causes, including possible anabolic steroid use in one case and contraindicated prescription medication(s) interactions that could kill on their own. These families are owed the best evidence about what happened to their loved ones, not what would appear to be some conclusions that are incompletely supported by the current evidence.”
Dr. Ebner was formerly forensic toxicologist, Toledo Metro Drug Unit and senior scientist, Abbott Laboratories. He is the author of depositions, reports and opinions in numerous drug- and alcohol-related legal cases.
Dave Herman, chair, board of directors, American Kratom Association, said: “Last year, the DEA tried to demonize kratom. In 2017, the kratom community finds itself in the same situation all over again: a new year … and a new unwarranted attack on kratom. This time, we are being told that two deaths were supposedly the result of kratom use. Let me be very clear about this: We do not believe that kratom caused these deaths. That’s what the science tells us. And superficial and less than thorough examinations and suggestions to the contrary – as in these two cases – do not change the facts. Given that there are millions of kratom consumers in the U.S., if this botanical was dangerous it would stand to reason that there would be thousands … or even tens of thousands of deaths … and that is absolutely not the case.”
The Babin report is far from being the first analysis to dismiss the notion of kratom posing a danger to consumers. According to a comprehensive analysis issued in December 2016, kratom has not been linked to any known deaths and has little potential for abuse and dependence – as low or lower than such widely used (and federally unscheduled substances) as “nutmeg, hops, St. John’s Wort, chamomile, guarana, and kola nut.” (See http://bit.ly/Henningfieldreport and related comment letter at http://bit.ly/akacomments.)
The America Kratom Association, a consumer-based non-profit organization, is here to set the record straight, giving voice to those suffering and protecting our rights to possess and consume kratom. AKA represents tens of thousands of Americans, each of whom have a unique story to tell about the virtues of kratom and its positive effects on their lives. http://www.americankratom.org
MEDIA CONTACT: Pat Mitchell, (703) 276-3266, or firstname.lastname@example.org.