7 dead, 91 cases reported as U.S. meningitis outbreak grows
Atlanta, GA, United States (4E) – The rare fungal meningitis outbreak that has been linked to contaminated spinal steroid injections, a typical treatment for back pain, has already killed seven people and affected a total of 91 across nine states Sunday.
According to U.S. Food and Drug Administration, federal health inspectors have inspected the New England Compounding Center plant last Monday and found foreign particles in unopened vials of the steroid, called methylprednisolone acetate, they confirmed the substance as a fungus.
Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina, Indiana, Michigan, Virginia, Maryland, Minnesota and Ohio have reported meningitis cases in their area.
Dr. Ilisa Bernstein, acting director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Office of Compliance, said that FDA is in the process of further identifying the fungal contaminate and that the investigation into the source of this outbreak is still ongoing.
Dr. Benjamin Park, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stated that concerned patients should contact their physician to find out if they received a medicine from one of these lots. He added that most of the cases occurred in older adults whose only health complaint was back pain.
NECC, the Massachusetts-based pharmacy that produced the injections, has voluntarily recalled three lots of the injected steroid last week.
The company also issued a voluntary nationwide recall of all its other products explaining that the new recall is made out of caution and that there is no indication that other products are contaminated.
It has also voluntarily surrendered, last Wednesday, its license to operate until the FDA investigation is complete.
FDA has ordered doctors, clinics, and consumers to stop using any of the pharmacy’s products.
There are 76 medical facilities in 23 states that received the contaminated steroid injections from NECC.
Around ten percent of drugs administered in the United States are from compound pharmacies, which are not FDA-mandated because the licensing of these pharmacies comes from state health pharmacy boards.
Fungal meningitis, which is rare and is not contagious, has symptoms like headache, fever, nausea and stiffness of the neck, as well as, confusion, dizziness and discomfort from bright lights.
CDC said that when the patient gets immediate anti-fungal medication treatment, the more likely he or she will survive. It is given intravenously so patients have to be hospitalized and may need to undergo months of treatment.
FDA is asking anyone who has experienced problems following an injection with the NECC product to report it to MedWatch, the FDA’s voluntary reporting program, by calling 1-800-FDA-1088 or online at www.fda.gov/medwatch/report.htm .