It is now January 2013 and new fungal meningitis cases are still popping up four months after the New England Compounding Center issued a voluntary recall of several lots of its steroid injection, Methylprednisolone Acetate. In addition to the new cases of fungal infections, other infections have come about as well.
It was found that the primary contaminant in the drug was Exserohilum, which is a type of black mold. The pathogens from the mold contaminated the three lots during the compounding process, which then led to fungal meningitis and other health issues in patients who received the injections. It has been estimated that as many as 14,000 patients were exposed to the contaminated drug and now the personal injury lawsuits have began.
As of now, there have been 664 reported cases and 40 of the individuals died from fungal meningitis.
And while fungal meningitis has received most of the attention, there have also been joint and spinal infections that have occurred near injection sites. Although new meningitis cases have come about, the number and frequency is starting to wane while the number of spinal infections is increasing. This has a lot to do with the fact that spinal infections can take a while to appear.
In Minnesota, there have been 10 cases of fungal meningitis since the late September outbreak and there are two reports of spinal infections. A total of six medical facilities in the state received the drug from the recalled lots. In addition, the FDA has said they cannot verify whether or not other drugs made at the New England Compounding Center are safe. It is estimated that 111 facilities throughout Minnesota have received other drugs from the facility.
This nationwide outbreak has caused the FDA to scramble because of concerns that have been raised by the outbreak. In late December, there was a hearing held to establish how the federal government and the states should regulate compounding pharmacies. Right now, it is the responsibility of state pharmacy boards to oversee these facilities, but many of the pharmacies are expanding from small operations to large-scale distribution with clients in multiple states. This multi-state dealing is why it may be necessary to push for federal oversight.
At the same time, the government agencies have been struggling to keep up with complaints from patients. On December 20, 2012, the CDC encouraged doctors to consider using MRIs for patients who had pain that did not improve after getting the injection. The previous recommendation was just for patients that had symptoms that were worsening.
As time goes on, new recommendations may come about, improved oversight of compounding facilities may become a reality, and individuals may not have to worry so much about contaminated drugs.