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Big Pharma Meningitis Outbreak Continues, No End in Sight

Lisa Garber
October 17th, 2012
Updated 10/31/2012 at 7:48 pm
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scientistinlab 235x147 Big Pharma Meningitis Outbreak Continues, No End in SightThe meningitis outbreak caused by contaminated steroids has killed 15 people and infected 231 as of Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the situation is not improving.

“We’re nowhere near the end of this problem,” says Vanderbilt University Medical Center expert Dr. William Schaffner. “We will see more patients reporting in ill and we’ll have to treat many more going forward.”

14,000 People at Risk

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration found fungus in sealed vials of a steroid manufactured by the New England Compounding Center (NECC) based in Massachusetts. The spinal steroids are typically used to relieve back pain, but the fungal contamination has caused non-contagious fungal meningitis. The condition affects the protective membranes around the brain and spinal cord, causing headache, fever, nausea, stiffness of the neck, confusion, dizziness, and aversion to light.

Of the 23 states that ordered medications from the compounding facility in question, only 8 have not reported at least one case of fungal meningitis. Authorities say that almost 14,000 people received injections of the steroid and may develop the potentially deadly condition.

Other Drugs Possibly Contaminated

To make matters worse, the FDA is investigating other drugs that may have been contaminated at the facility. Two patients administered different steroids than the one aforementioned have reported possible fungal meningitis infection—one injected during open heart surgery, and the other injected with triamcinolone, yet another steroid.

FDA official Janet Woodcock reassures the public that “there’s a good probability they are not linked,” but it isn’t helping NECC’s reputation. The facility is already being sued by numerous victims, and a congressman is calling for an even deeper investigation.

NECC in Hot Water

NECC, like all compounding facilities, produces drugs based on a single patient’s individual needs as described by a physician. Reuters uncovered evidence, however, that NECC broke state law when they failed to request individual patient prescriptions along with bulk orders from physicians.

Massachusetts Democratic congressman Edward Markey referenced this breach when he demanded for a probe of NECC, this time regarding potentially addictive, “controlled” drugs.

“This is a matter that I believe requires further investigation by the [Drug Enforcement Agency] to ensure that this facility, already believed to have broken Massachusetts state law, has not also skirted federal law related to controlled substances.”

If you have received a steroid injection and experience symptoms of fungal meningitis, seek medical help immediately. Dr. Schaffner says the symptoms are rarely mild and patients have a greater chance of survival if treated early.

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  • Linda Joy Adams

    A couple of days ago, the FDA published 39 pages of medications in the recall at close of business. and includes just about everything one can imagine. My compound was on there and I had had a severe reaction to something a couple of weeks earlier requiring a round of antibiotic and severe bleeding from sinues and etc. I go to a stand alone pharmacist and my local one mixes the compound from two separate ingredients. One Of which was saline water, In reviewing the list (39 pages,not 39 medications) I saw saline water as either in the product or could be used in processing most of the product. I called to find out if my pharmacist might have gotten the same brand and; or lot as that company used.No one knew? The FDA was not inside? the plant at all, the State was in charge and no one seemed to know much, and my pharmaist was closed for the day. In fact the phone menu for the health professions was still only saying the few shots.

    They weren't prepared for something like this and all the inquiries from such an extensive list. Everything from ointments to powders to other kinds of medications, 3 weeks into this. Later the next day the feds raided the place. Earlier the next day, I claled the State commisioner of Health's offoice to ask them to help me get my simple qeustion answered, a common ingredient used in compounds. The OK State Health commissioner, who had no idea they were to be in charge for anyone needed answers, etc in OK until I called them and told them they were according to FDA, did check into this. Even the Poison control center had no idea the list was out, hours later. I have had major complaints against FDA for years in not labeling products as to what chemicals or preservatives might be in them for those of us that have an adverse reactions unlike allergies. Only about 3 million of us in USA. Even Pharmacies software programs are only programmed to detect ingredients one might have an allergic reaction too.

    I'm not a doctor, scientist or health care professional,but immediately saw a common ingredient and my simple question still is not answered, but pretty certain that is not what got me, but formaldehyde laced sausage after another package got opened and caused another reaction. That's USDA oversight jurisdiction. (one can sign up for FDA recall lists to be sent one as they are posted.) Linda Joy Adams

    • Ralph Coffman

      Close the FDA and start over with a REAL consumer protection ministry no more agencys