According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, a steroid called methylprednisolone acetate that was contaminated by a fungus may have been injected into about 13,000 people in 23 US states. The injectable steroid was made by the New England Compounding Center, which is based in Framingham, Massachusetts. To date, there have been at least 105 related cases of this rare form of meningitis confirmed in 9 states-Virginia, Florida, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, Maryland, North Carolina, Minnesota, and Michigan-with the death toll at at least 8. The tainted drug was also sent to California, Georgia, Connecticut, Idaho, New Hampshire, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.
The steroid is usually applied via injection as a painkiller for the back. The contaminated drugs were made in May of this year or later and through last month they were sent to at least 75 medical facilities. If you believe you contracted fungal meningitis from a steroid injection or any other illness from what may have been a contaminated drug, contact our dangerous drug lawyers at Altman & Altman, LLP right away.
Previous complaints had been filed against the New England Compounding Center before this outbreak. Now, in the wake of this health crisis, the company has suspended its operations while an investigation takes place. Its initial recall of three lots of the steroid-impacting 17,676 vials-has been expanded to now include all products that were distributed and compounded at the Framingham facility.
Compounding Pharmacies Are Subject to Limited Oversight
Per a 2003 Government Accountability Office report, close to 10% of drugs that are administered in this country are processed by compound pharmacies. These facilities take medicines made by pharmaceutical companies and break them up into specific strengths and dosages.
Unfortunately, the US Food and Drug Administration has restricted authority over these pharmacies’ daily operations and it is mainly up to the state boards to monitor the licensing, practices, and the certification of pharmacists and pharmacies. Also, compounded products don’t require FDA approval in order to be sold in the US, and the federal agency has no oversight over how the products are labeled or made.
While fungal meningitis is not contagious, it can lead to serious neurological problems, small strokes, and other health complications. Symptoms may include chills, fever, stiff neck, and headaches. The sooner someone is treated, the better his/her prognosis for survival. An anti-fungal medication that is administered intravenously is given to initially combat this affliction, but some patients may require months of treatment.
Meningitis-linked steroid may have affected 13,000 people in U.S., CDC, Reuters, October 8, 2012
More patients linked to fungal meningitis infections, CDC says, CNN, October 6, 2012
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