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Fungal Meningitis Cases Rise–Legislators Alarmed

An outbreak of fungal meningitis that occurred early this month is now being traced back to a resident of Chicago who received steroid injections as its first victim. The medication, produced by New England Compounding Center (“NECC”), led to the infestation of more than 300 people in 17 states and a count of 23 deaths to date.

The Chicago resident took an epidural steroid shot from one of three contaminated stacks from the compounding center. NECC, a Massachusetts pharmacy that manufactures personalized medication, has distributed the contaminated medication to 76 facilities in 23 states.

Janet Russell, 71, a resident from Tennessee, had fungal meningitis after having an injection of methylprednisolone for back pain at St. Thomas’ Outpatient Neurosurgery Center. She filed a lawsuit with her husband of 53 years. The complaint, which sought $15 million in damages, claimed that she suffered permanent disability and emotional distress in the course of her treatment.

Another patient who received an injection of the steroid triamcinolone, a different drug produced by NECC, is suspected to have fungal meningitis according to the Food and Drug Administration. Nine more people have been tested to have fungal meningitis connected to an apparent contamination of vials containing injectable methylprednisolone. According to health authorities, about 14,000 people nationwide have taken injections from medication linked to the epidemic.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) requires pharmacies that sell compound-controlled substances to register under it. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts, wrote a letter to the Justice Department stating that the NECC failed to register under the DEA. Laws only permit selling controlled substances directly to patients with specific prescriptions unless the pharmacy registers as a supplier or manufacturer under the DEA, Rep. Markey added. He also plans to push for policies that would reinforce the FDA’s control over compounding companies.

Gov. Deval Patrick in a statement said that the NECC might have misdirected regulators and operated beyond the grounds of its license. Ongoing investigations by federal and state investigators revealed that the meningitis-causing fungus is found in more than 50 vials from the company.

NECC replied that they continue to work with the FDA , the CDC, and the Board of Registration in Pharmacy of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and that they “respect those public agencies’ processes for investigations and will not comment while they are underway…” Eye medications, antibiotics, skin care products, and hair restorers are other substances produced by NECC.

If you have become sick, or a loved one has died, after receiving a spinal steroid epidural, contact Mike Agruss Law, at 888-572-0176 to discuss your case. We are here to counsel you in your time of need and fight for your rights under the law. Call us today at 888-572-0176.

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