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NEC and Formula Makers’ Marketing Practices

NEC and Formula Makers’ Marketing Practices

The formula industry has grown into a $58 billion market with a projected growth of 8 percent a year until 2030 and a projected market value of $130 billion. To expand at this rate, formula makers used healthcare facilities and physicians to build public trust in their products. If your child was harmed due to the negligence of these formula companies, contact Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC.

NEC in Premature Infants

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a serious illness that primarily affects premature and medically fragile infants. NEC causes an inflammatory process that can lead to intestinal tissue damage. Premature infants fed cow’s milk formula have a higher risk of complications from NEC due to their underdeveloped digestive system and inability to break down the proteins in the milk easily. NEC is the most common and serious intestinal disease among premature babies leading to severe illness, surgery, and death in 15 to 40 percent of premature infants with the condition.

Did Formula Makers Know They Were Causing Harm?

Of course, parents began to ask, “Did the formula makers of Similac or Enfamil know about the relation of NEC to cow’s milk formula in preemies?” The answer to that is that they should have.

Studies as early as 1990 showed that premature infants on cow’s milk formula were six to ten times more likely to get NEC than if they were on human milk. Since those early studies, there have been many more that prove the relationship. Although this information was available, formula makers continued to use aggressive marketing practices while omitting the risks of NEC to preemies on cow’s milk formula.

Formula Marketing Practices

Physicians’ preference for breastfeeding created a marketing problem for the industry in how to position a slightly less-than-optimal product. In the 1980s, formula makers began marketing their products to the public as the best alternative to breast milk, and often, parents would believe it to be the healthiest alternative for feeding. The formula makers targeted mostly hospitals and physicians. With thousands of free formula samples available, doctors and nurses filled up diaper bags when new mothers were leaving the hospital, not realizing they were working as a marketing tool for Similac or Enfamil. Research shows that 90 percent of women stick with the brand of formula the hospital provides them. When new moms are given formula by their doctor or the hospital staff, it gives the product credibility and the impression that the doctor endorses it.

Although the formula makers were not marketing directly to the consumer, their tactics significantly impacted the new mothers. Parents began to trust these brands, and I was one of them, leaving the hospital with my Similac Sensitive for my first child. I thought I had to only buy that brand and type of formula. I thought I was sent home with that formula because that was what my child needed for their specific dietary needs. Now I know that was not the case. It was merely what they happened to have on hand.

Another part of the marketing plan rewarded the hospitals that were distributing or agreed to distribute their products. The marketer would give participating hospitals or healthcare systems that were adding maternity or newborn care centers and hospitals free architectural services to assist in renovating or building these facilities. When the building was finished and they began to see patients, they would hand out the formula maker’s products, continuing the expansion of their product.

Contact an Attorney if Negligent Formula Makers Impacted Your Family

Although there are many instances where formula may be beneficial to a newborn, the aggressive marketing by manufacturers has overshadowed the benefits of breastmilk and ignored some of the risks associated with formula feeding.

Contact our firm to schedule a consultation if your child suffered severe injury or wrongful death due to a negligent formula company.

Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC