With new reports each day concerning the number of people sickened with fungal meningitis, steroid shots and the compounding pharmacies that make them are increasingly under the spotlight. So far 105 people have fallen ill and eight have died across nine states. Now, reports indicate that as many as 13,000 patients may have been exposed to fungal meningitis - a fungus that attacks the brain and central nervous system - from tainted spinal steroid injections.
It appears that all of the victims who have been infected were given steroids that had been produced by one Massachusetts pharmacy that issued a recall of the drug and has since closed. The pharmacy that issued the recall is the New England Compounding Center. Given the outcry since the recall was announced, some lawmakers have called for bringing certain specialized pharmacies such as the one at the center of this case under greater regulatory scrutiny.
UPDATE: Check out this 60 Minutes report revealing just how sloppy the practices were at the New England Compounding Center:
Three lots of potentially contaminated steroid injections were sent by New England Compounding Center to 75 health facilities in 23 states from July to September, according to officials. Despite the wide reach of the facility, oversight falls under the powers of the state, not the FDA. This is because NECC is considered a pharmacy and not a manufacturer.
There are about 3,000 compounding pharmacies nationwide, and drugs made by the facilities represent as much as 3% of the roughly $300 billion in prescription drugs sold in the U.S. each year, according to the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists.
The FDA has pushed to increase its regulatory authority over compounding pharmacies. Thus far it has been prevented by court opinions and a lack of legislative interest. The FDA issued a warning back in 2007 noting that compounded drugs “are not FDA-approved.” The warning went on to say that there had been “devastating repercussions” from such drugs, including three patients dying of infections from a drug used to paralyze the heart during surgery and two patients at a veterans hospital who were blinded by a compounded product used in cataract surgery.
Authorities from across the country fear there may be many more infections, as previous instances are reported or new cases develop. The virus has an incubation period of as little as two days or as many as 28 days. Fortunately, this type of meningitis is not contagious like the viral and bacterial types, but it is obviously still dangerous and potentially deadly.
People who received steroid treatments in the last few months are now being contacted by state health officials. If you have received this type of treatment recently, please contact your doctor or the facility where the steroid treatment was given to determine whether you might be at risk.
The Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer’s Perspective:
As experienced Virginia dangerous drug attorneys, my colleagues and I have helped clients through many cases like this one. Sadly, thousands of people experience the pain of taking a medication prescribed by their doctor only to have it cause serious health problems later on. This happens far too often and the side effects can last a lifetime.
Potentially Helpful Info:
If you have been injured by a dangerous or defective drug, you may be able to hold the company that manufactured and marketed the drug accountable by filing claims for compensation. Read this article to begin learning about your legal rights and options when a faulty product leads to injuries.