An Indiana family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the compounding pharmacy linked to a nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak, saying that the illness that claimed the life of Daniel Rohrer after he received an epidural steroid injection that was later recalled.
The complaint is the latest in a number of lawsuits filed over the fungal meningitis outbreak, which involves more than 400 confirmed infections in 19 states, including 30 deaths.
Rohrer’s family filed the meningitis wrongful death lawsuit last week in Elkhart County Court in Indiana, after that the 68 year old died on October 23. The death was allegedly caused by a tainted injection mixed by the New England Compounding Center (NECC), which has been named as the defendant in the family’s lawsuit.
NECC recalled more than 17,000 vials of methylprednisolone acetate epidural injections, which have been directly linked to the outbreak of fungal meningitis. The CDC estimates that about 14,000 people may have received potentially contaminated injections, and the FDA says it has also found fungus in other drugs distributed by the compounding pharmacy.
The lawsuit by Rohrer’s family accuses the compounding pharmacy of negligence. In addition to accusing the pharmacy of causing the outbreak, the lawsuit alleges that NECC should have known that the steroids were contaminated long before the recall was issued. The drugs were in circulation for the entirety of the summer.
FDA investigators who inspected NECC’s facilities found unsterile conditions and detected fungus in numerous sealed, supposedly sterile, vials of drugs that would have been shipped to health care centers nationwide had the problem not been discovered.
NECC has surrendered its pharmacy license in Massachusetts, had it revoked in Tennessee, and faces state and federal criminal probes in addition to a growing number of lawsuits.
Rohrer’s family seeks compensatory damages for medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of income and emotional damages, and also seeks punitive damages against the pharmacy as well.
The fungal meningitis outbreak has brought the spotlight on compounding pharmacies, which have few regulations and little oversight.
While the pharmacies are supposed to supply drugs to local hospitals and clinics that are tailor-made for specific patients, it appears that some have been operating as stealth drug manufacturers, distributing mass quantities of drugs nationwide without having to go through virtually any regulatory oversight.
A number of states have begun cracking down on compounding pharmacies operating outside of the parameters of their license as a result of the outbreak and media attention.