Cases of fungal infections, meningitis caused by tainted steroid shots still being reported

posted on:
January 28, 2013

author:
Jennifer Walker-Journey

It has been four months since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned the public that three lots of steroid shots commonly used to treat back, neck or joint pain had been linked to cases of rare fungal meningitis. Cases of infections caused by the shots continue to be reported to the CDC. The latest data shows at least 44 people have died and 678 have become infected after receiving the contaminated shots.

About 18,0000 tainted steroid shots, a preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate (MPA), were mixed by New England Compounding Center (NECC), and then shipped to medical facilities in 26 states from late May until late September. The shots were injected into the spine of patients to treat back or neck pain, and into joints such as elbows and shoulders to treat joint pain.

Investigators later found fungus and other contaminants in the steroid injections, and unsterile conditions in the pharmacy’s lab where the shots were mixed. An estimated 14,000 people received the steroid shots and became exposed to the fungus.

Most of the patients who received the shots were tracked down and told to seek immediate medical attention if they began showing signs of meningitis, such as severe headache, neck pain, fever, and dizziness. Early detection is key to survival in these patients. But some experienced only mild symptoms that gradually got worse, which delayed treatment.

Soon, doctors began seeing other fungus-related conditions in patients who had received the contaminated shots including spinal or paraspinal infections, strokes, and peripheral joint infections.

The incubation period for fungal infections is unknown, and some patients who were told they were in the clear have become infected months after receiving the shots. Many live in fear that the fungus is still growing inside.

NECC, the company that made and distributed the shots, eventually recalled all its products and ceased operations. Late last year, the owners filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Attorneys for the creditors discovered that the four owners of NECC had taken more than $70 million out of the company during the past six years.

Dozens of victims have filed lawsuits against NECC, and creditors are seeking to freeze the assets of the owners. Attorneys with Beasley Allen Law Firm are currently investigating cases of fungal infections in patients who received steroid injections made by NECC.

Source: CDC

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