SATURDAY, Oct. 13 (HealthDay News) -- The toll from the
meningitis outbreak linked to contaminated steroid injections
continues to rise: 15 are now dead and 205 are infected in 14
states, U.S. health officials reported Sunday.
All of the patients were thought to be injected with
methylprednisolone acetate, a steroid drug often used for back pain
that investigators suspect was tainted with a common fungus,
according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
The steroid was manufactured by a specialty pharmacy, the New
England Compounding Center of Framingham, Mass., which last month
voluntarily recalled three lots of the steroid. It has since shut
down operations and stopped distributing its products, health
It's believed that as many as 14,000 people may have gotten the
injections. Health officials in the 23 states that received
shipments of the steroid have been able to contact about 11,000
patients, CDC officials said Thursday.
The 14,000 figure includes not only people who got injections
for back pain and are most at risk for meningitis, but also others
who received injections for pain in their knees and shoulders.
Meningitis is inflammation of the lining surrounding the brain and
All of the infected patients are thought to have received the
medication from the Massachusetts pharmacy, according to the
On Sunday, the CDC had the following state-by-state breakdown of
cases: Florida: 10 cases, including 2 deaths; Idaho, 1 case;
Illinois, 1 case; Indiana: 28 cases, including 2 deaths; Maryland:
15 cases, including 1 death; Michigan: 41 cases, including 3
deaths; Minnesota: 4 cases; New Jersey: 8 cases; North Carolina: 2
cases; Ohio: 3 cases; Tennessee: 53 cases, including 6 deaths;
Texas: 1 case; Virginia: 34 cases, including 1 death.
U.S. health officials said they expect to see more cases of the
rare type of meningitis, which is not contagious, because symptoms
can take a month or more to appear.
Infected patients have developed a variety of symptoms
approximately one to four weeks following their injection. Symptoms
include fever, new or worsening headache, nausea, and "new
neurological deficit [consistent with deep brain stroke]," the CDC
Patients 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, slurred
Infected patients must receive intravenous drugs in a
Compounding pharmacies such as the New England Compounding
Center combine, mix or alter ingredients to create specific drugs
to meet the specific needs of individual patients, according to the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Such customized drugs are
frequently required to fill special needs, such as a smaller dose,
or the removal of an ingredient that might trigger an allergy in a
Compounding pharmacies historically started out as
community-based neighborhood druggists. But over time, the
practices of some compounding pharmacies have expanded, sometimes
beyond their intended limits, experts explained.
According to the
Associated Press, this is not the first time the New England
Compounding Center has encountered problems with contaminated
injections. In 2007, the company settled a lawsuit that claimed
that an 83-year-old man died in 2004 after contracting fatal
bacterial meningitis from a shot produced by the compounding
center. The pharmacy reached a settlement with the man's widow
before the case went to trial, the
The New England Compounding Center is relatively small, with 49
The New York Timesreported.
Compounding pharmacies aren't subject to the same oversight from
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as regular drug stores are,
and members of Congress now say the meningitis outbreak highlights
the need for more regulatory control.
"This incident raises serious concerns about the scope of the practice of pharmacy compounding in the United States and the current patchwork of federal and state laws," according to a statement by Rep. Henry Waxman, (D-Calif.) and two other Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, the Timesreported.
Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who represents the
district that's home to the New England Compounding Center, said he
would push for legislation that requires compounding pharmacies
that distribute products across state lines to register with the
The CDC released a list of the approximately
75 health-care facilities that received contaminated
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about
injections for back pain.
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