Product News and Recalls

Meningitis outbreak leads to calls for reform

According to Reuters, the deadly fungal meningitis outbreak linked to tainted steroid medication has led to calls for more oversight of what the article describes as “a largely unregulated corner of the pharmaceutical world.”

The latest figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control put the number of cases at 119 in 10 different states. The CDC is also reporting 11 deaths. The latest victim is a 70-year-old man in Florida, Reuters reports.

The New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., manufactured the steroid that all of the victims received. Federal health officials say as many as 13,000 people in 23 states may have received the now-recalled injectable medication, which is used to treat back pain.

According to Reuters, the federal Food and Drug Administration regulates only the ingredients and not compounding pharmacists such as the New England Compounding Center. Compounders, which create customized medication for patients for whom manufactured pharmaceuticals won’t work, are subject to a patchwork of state oversight.

Meningitis is a potentially deadly infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, stiffness of the neck, confusion, dizziness and discomfort from bright lights. Fungal meningitis, unlike viral and bacterial meningitis, is not contagious.

Tennessee has been the hardest hit state in the current outbreak, with six reported deaths and 39 cases.

Dr. David Reagan, chief medical officer for the Tennessee Department of Health, said on Oct. 9 that the estimated rate of infection among those patients who received injections from the recalled steroid supplies is about 5 percent. Based on that rate of infection, federal officials estimate that the number of confirmed cases could grow to about 650.

Because the incubation period of the disease is up to a month, health experts say some of the thousands of people exposed may have to wait weeks before they know if they’ve been infected.

Lopez McHugh is investigating cases related to this outbreak. If you or a loved one had an injection and were diagnosed with meningitis, you should consult with a Lopez McHugh lawyer for a free consultation.

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