During the past few weeks, we have learned of a growing number of fungal meningitis cases linked to a batch of contaminated epidural steroid injections created by the New England Compounding Center. Meningitis refers to inflammation of the meninges, which are the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Common types of meningitis are viral and bacterial meningitis which can be highly contagious and begin with flu-like symptoms. Often these types of meningitis may go undiagnosed as patients will simply write it off as a seasonal flu. Unlike viral and bacterial meningitis, fungal meningitis is not contagious and cases currently under investigation by the CDC are limited to those who received the affected steroid shot.
In this case, the contaminated product, created by a compounding center, tested positive for strains of fungus – including one that is present in wood rot. You may not be familiar with how a compounding pharmacy differs from your local pharmacy, or how each is individually regulated by the FDA. Compounding centers create custom formulations of medications in order to fit patients’ needs that may not be able to be met with a manufactured drug product. Currently, more than half of the nation’s 56,000 community-based pharmacies provide some level of basic compounding services and one to three percent of all prescriptions dispensed in the U.S. are compounded.
Compounding pharmacies are licensed and regulated by individual states, but the final products created by a compounding pharmacy are not subject to FDA regulations that manufacturers of drugs must follow. The New England Compounding Center has voluntarily recalled products related to the outbreak, but the CDC, recommends all products from the center be avoided while the investigation continues.
The CDC estimates that as many as 14,000 patients may have been given the tainted product tied to the outbreak. Since last week, the outbreak has been connected to 205 infections spread throughout 15 states and 15 reported deaths. So far no cases have been identified in Georgia but it is important to note that the CDC has marked Georgia as a state that received the affected product.
If you or someone you know has received a steroid injection and contracted fungal meningitis, please contact the experienced litigation attorneys at Suthers & Harper.