TUESDAY, Nov. 20 (HealthDay News) -- The ongoing meningitis
outbreak tied to tainted steroid injections has reached 490 cases,
and another person has died, bringing the total fatalities to 34,
the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported
The contaminated injections have been traced to a specialty
pharmacy in Massachusetts, the New England Compounding Center,
which ceased operations after the start of the outbreak early last
Compounding pharmacies combine, mix or alter ingredients to
create drugs to meet the specific needs of individual patients.
Such custom-made drugs may include a smaller dose, for example, or
the removal of an ingredient that might trigger an allergy in a
patient, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
These specialty pharmacies aren't subject to the same FDA
oversight as regular drug manufacturers. Some members of Congress
are calling for greater FDA regulation of these businesses.
The owner of the New England Compounding Center refused last
Wednesday to testify before a House of Representatives committee
investigating the steroid/meningitis outbreak.
After a series of questions from members of the House Energy and
Commerce Committee, Barry Cadden, co-founder of the New England
Compounding Center, said: "Under advice of counsel, I respectfully
decline to answer under basis of my constitutional rights and
privileges, including the Fifth Amendment," the
Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that surround the
brain and spinal cord. The steroid injections were used on patients
complaining of back or joint pain.
Last month, FDA investigators who toured the New England
Compounding Center's Framingham plant found foreign,
"greenish-black" material in some vials of the injectable steroid
suspected as the cause of the illnesses, federal health officials
said. The contaminated product was one of a host of potential
violations discovered during the recent inspection, the officials
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday
had the following state-by-state breakdown of cases: Florida: 24
cases, including 3 deaths; Georgia, 1 case; Idaho, 1 case;
Illinois, 2 cases; Indiana: 55 cases, including 5 deaths; Maryland:
23 cases, including 1 death; Michigan: 164 cases, including 9
deaths; Minnesota: 13 cases; New Hampshire: 13 cases; New Jersey:
33 cases; New York: 1 case; North Carolina: 3 cases, including 1
death; Ohio: 18 cases; Pennsylvania: 1 case; Rhode Island: 3 cases;
South Carolina: 1 case; Tennessee: 82 cases, including 13 deaths;
Texas: 2 cases; Virginia: 50 cases, including 2 deaths.
Twelve of the 490 cases involve what the CDC calls "peripheral
joint infection," meaning an infection in a knee, hip, shoulder or
elbow. These joint infections aren't considered as dangerous as
injections near the spine for back pain that have been linked to
the potentially fatal meningitis infections.
The CDC and state health departments estimate that roughly
14,000 patients may have gotten steroid injections from the New
England Compounding Center. All of the fungal meningitis patients
identified so far were thought to be injected with the steroid
methylprednisolone acetate, according to the CDC.
People who have had a steroid injection since July, and have any
of the following symptoms, should talk to their doctor as soon as
possible: worsening headache, fever, sensitivity to light, stiff
neck, new weakness or numbness in any part of your body or slurred
speech, the CDC said.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about
injections for back pain.
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