U.S. officials confirm tainted drug caused meningitis
It's estimated that 14,000 patients in 23 states may have received the tainted steroids, which are injected into the spine to treat back pain.
Thu, Oct 18, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Early tests had shown fungus in unopened medication vials produced by the New England Compounding Center, but it took time to confirm it was the type that causes the rare form of meningitis. (Photo: Jared Wickerham/AFP)
U.S. health officials confirmed that the tainted drugs linked to an outbreak of meningitis did indeed contain the fungus which causes the infection. On Thursday the death toll rose to 20 people.
The number of cases held steady at 257, including three joint infections linked to the contaminated steroid injections, according to the latest update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Early tests had shown fungus in unopened medication vials produced by the New England Compounding Center, but it took time to confirm it was the type that causes the rare form of meningitis: Exserohilum rostratum.
"The laboratory confirmation further links steroid injections from these lots from NECC to the multistate outbreak of fungal meningitis and joint infections," the Food and Drug Administration said in a statement.
Health officials estimate that approximately 14,000 patients in 23 states may have received the tainted steroids, which are typically injected into the spine to treat back pain.
They have warned that an untold number more may be at risk after receiving other medications produced by the Massachusetts pharmacy in a factory lacking proper sterilization procedures.
The widening outbreak has led to calls for tighter regulation of the loosely controlled pharmaceutical compounding industry.
Critics say drug manufacturers have found a way to sidestep costly and strict oversight by classifying themselves as pharmacies, which are given freer rein to mix drug compounds for patients.
NECC has shut down its operations and recalled all of its products in the wake of the outbreak. Criminal prosecutors searched the facility on Tuesday.
This story was originally written for Agence France-Presse and is republished with permission here. Copyright 2012 AFP Global Edition