Fungal Meningitis Symptoms May Take Weeks To Appear, CDC Warns
The number of people sickened or killed from a fungal meningitis outbreak caused by tainted drugs is expected to keep climbing, due to the long latency period of the illness and difficulty testing for the infection.
The injections, manufactured and distributed by the New England Compounding Center (NECC), were reportedly distributed between May 2012 and the end of September 2012.
It can take a month or more for symptoms of fungal meningitis to appear, meaning that there may be people who received contaminated epidural steroid injections who do not get sick until late October or early November 2012.
Did You Know?
Millions of Philips CPAP Machines Recalled
Philips DreamStation, CPAP and BiPAP machines sold in recent years may pose a risk of cancer, lung damage and other injuries.Learn More
The CDC estimates that about 14,000 people received shots directly to the spine for pain relief that may have been contaminated. Originally, the CDC said about 13,000 people received the shots, but increased that estimate on October 11.
More Than 170 Diagnosed With Fungal Meningitis
As of Friday morning, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that at least 14 people have died and 170 have fallen ill as a result of New England Compounding Center’s recalled epidural steroid injections. However, a substantial number of people are currently receiving treatment for symptoms of meningitis and awaiting test results.
In addition to the delayed onset of symptoms after exposure, federal health officials indicate that many cases may also be missed because tests used to check for fungal meningitis are not always accurate.
Fungal meningitis is a non-contageous form of meningitis caused by mold that somehow tainted vials of the epidural injections. It causes inflammation of the spinal cord and protective membranes covering the brain. The inflammation generally causes an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord and can also be caused by parasites, viruses and bacterial infection. Individuals with a weakened immune system may be at a particularly high risk of contracting fungal meningitis.
Symptoms of meningitis following an epidural steroid injection may include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and mental confusion. Signs of meningitis usually develop within three to seven days after exposure. As the disease progresses, symptoms may become severe, resulting in seizures, coma and death.
Second Pharmacy Shuts Down Amid Calls for Criminal Probe
While the outbreak and initial recall were only linked to three lots of methylprednisolone acetate, New England Compounding Center has shut down all of its operations over concerns about its manufacturing process.
On Wednesday, a second Massachusetts compounding pharmacy, Ameridose, also shut down, raising concerns about the safety of medications mixed by the facility. Ameridose and New England Compounding Center have the same principal owners. However, company officials indicate that they do not share manufacturing, distribution or storage facilities or practices. No drugs from Ameridose have been linked to the outbreak
The developments came as anger began to rise over the outbreak and what appears to have been a gross overstepping of New England Compounding Center’s license with the state of Massachusetts.
Compounding pharmacies are supposed to fill critical drug needs for local health care facilities when drug manufacturers cannot. They generally step in to fill drug shortages or to create specialty drugs for specific patients.
State officials say that appears to have not been the case with New England Compounding Center and accuse the company of being a stealth large-scale drug manufacturer. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick suggested the pharmacy may have intentionally misled regulators about the type of work being done there.
New England Compounding Center was able to create and distribute drugs cheaper and faster than recognized drug manufacturers because compounding pharmacies have few regulations and little FDA oversight. Acknowledged drug companies, however, have to get FDA approval to develop and sell drugs. They also have restrictions on how those drugs are marketed.
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, from Connecticut, has called for a federal criminal probe into New England Compounding Center. He says he does not know if the company broke any laws, but believes there are enough credible allegations to send the Justice Department into action.
Not the First Time New England Compounding Center Accused of Bad Drugs
The fungal meningitis outbreak is not the first time New England Compounding Center has faced legal problems over potentially contaminated drugs.
In 2006, the company reached a settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of William Koch, who received a shot in 2002, which the family said was contaminated. He died of bacterial meningitis in 2004. Details of the settlement remain confidential.
As a result of this most recent outbreak, New England Compounding Center is expected to face substantial liability from contaminated epidural injection lawsuits filed by individuals diagnosed with fungal meningitis. However, it is unclear how much insurance coverage is available or what assets may be available to cover any judgement or settlements.
WesOctober 17, 2012 at 5:05 am
I was given a trigger point injection at the end of July. I received a call from the center that did my injection and they told me that I needed to seek medical attention ASAP! I've had the headaches, stiff neck, dizziness and at times, very nauseated. After worrying about this whole thing, I was on the table and ready for the spinal tap. My doctor made a call to the physician that gave me the inj[Show More]I was given a trigger point injection at the end of July. I received a call from the center that did my injection and they told me that I needed to seek medical attention ASAP! I've had the headaches, stiff neck, dizziness and at times, very nauseated. After worrying about this whole thing, I was on the table and ready for the spinal tap. My doctor made a call to the physician that gave me the injection and that physician told my doctor that my shot was NOT in the spine and was given in the muscle. I was told that I could leave and there was no reason for the spinal tap. First, why did the clinic have me worried when they knew that I had a trigger point injection if it was nothing to worry about? Second, why do I have several of the signs of the infection? Third, my shot WAS infected and they admitted to that, so what happened to the fungus? Could I be infected even if my shot was not directly injected into my spine? I'm worried sick about this whole thing and I still have NO ANSWERS!!
RobinOctober 14, 2012 at 2:35 am
It is my understanding that *if your injection was a trigger point injection w/steroids you are in NO DANGER! Is that true? (or should I contact my doctor?)
"*" indicates required fields
More Top Stories
More than 775 Exactech lawsuits have been filed in federal and state courts as parties work toward a plan for bellwether early test trials.
A federal judge has announced he will soon begin remanding 3M earplug lawsuits back to their originating districts for trials over claims of veteran hearing loss.
Lawyers are working to register and file Philips CPAP lawsuits, as the manufacturer may argue the June 14 anniversary of a massive recall triggered the start of the statute of limitations in certain states