Product News and Recalls

Experts say meningitis outbreak was preventable

A story in USA Today concerns a physician who claims that a current deadly outbreak of fungal meningitis is nearly identical to one that occurred a decade ago. If the federal government had enacted some safety measures then, the current outbreak might have been avoided, according to John Perfect, chief of infectious disease at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

According to the article, Perfect treated five patients sickened in North Carolina a decade ago, one of whom died.

The current outbreak is far more widespread. The latest figures from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say 285 people have been infected in 16 states. And 23 have died.

But the outbreak from 2002 involved the same steroid — methylprednisolone acetate, which is commonly injected to treat back pain. In both cases, a compounding pharmacy failed to follow adequate sterility procedures, and the medication ended up contaminated with a fungus.

According to Perfect, “fungi grow aggressively” without adequate cleanliness standards. That may be because of the way they interact with steroids, which suppress the immune system.

Meningitis is a potentially deadly inflammation of the tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

In 2002, the CDC issued warnings about compounding pharmacies, which make specialized treatments for patients from drug ingredients provided by other manufacturers. The one cited in the current outbreak is the New England Compounding Center, located in Massachusetts.

A decade ago, the CDC identified two dangers connected with compounders. One is that health-system pharmacists might not even realize they’re buying compounded medications. The other is that most states don’t require compounding pharmacies to report adverse events associated with their products to state or federal agencies.

According to USA Today, the law hasn’t changed since the 2002 outbreak.

The report quotes Michael Carome, deputy director of advocacy organization Public Citizen’s health research group, as saying some subsequent events should have served as a warning. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a 2006 warning letter to the New England Compounding Center, citing potential health risks with a product.

“This tragedy could have been prevented,” Carome says.

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.

See the story here: