According to the nation’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 200 people in at least 13 states including Texas have contracted fungal meningitis likely as a result of receiving tainted steroid injections in their neck or spine. The rare outbreak has claimed at least 15 lives. CDC investigators have purportedly linked a preservative-free steroid called methylprednisolone created at the New England Compounding Center (NECC) to the fungal meningitis outbreak. Prior to the outbreak, methylprednisolone manufactured at NECC was reportedly shipped to at least 75 medical facilities in 23 states. All drugs created at the Massachusetts company, including three lots of the allegedly tainted steroid, were recently recalled. NECC and its sister company, Ameridose, have allegedly stopped all manufacturing operations.
According to the CDC, two different types of mold have been detected in fungal meningitis patients who were administered shots created at NECC’s compounding facility. Because both molds normally grow slowly and initial fungal meningitis symptoms may be subtle, the CDC stated more cases are likely to be diagnosed in the near future. Symptoms may include a headache, neck stiffness, fever, nausea, and an increased sensitivity to light.
Meningitis causes the membrane that surrounds a victim’s brain and spinal column to swell. Unlike other types of meningitis, the fungal form is not contagious and must be directly introduced into a patient’s central nervous system through a shot or other means. Although the incubation period can vary, fungal meningitis symptoms will generally begin to appear anywhere between one and four weeks after a patient is exposed to the fungus. Once diagnosed, a fungal meningitis patient must be treated with antifungal drugs for several weeks.
Compounding facilities are normally used to create drugs based on an individual patient’s needs. Often, the facilities will adjust the dosage or physical form of a drug before it is administered. Such facilities are also allegedly used to obtain drugs that are not commercially available or are hired to provide pharmaceutical products for medical facilities that seek to cut drug costs. Although the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is tasked with regulating drug manufacturers, the agency’s role in compounding facility oversight is reportedly less clear. Still, the FDA issued a warning letter to NECC in December 2006.
At least 14,000 people across the country are believed to have received possibly tainted steroid injections. Potential fungal meningitis lawsuits are currently being evaluated throughout the nation. If you or a loved one contracted fungal meningitis after receiving a steroid injection, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney.