More Death and Illness from the Meningitis Outbreak



Meningitis Outbreak: 4 More Deaths

New deaths in Virginia, Florida.

By David Pittman, MedPage Today

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WEDNESDAY, October 17, 2012 (MedPage Today) —The fungal meningitis outbreak has claimed another four lives, and an additional 14 cases have been added to the tally of illnesses traced to a contaminated steroid from the New England Compounding Center (NECC), the CDC announced Wednesday.

The total number of cases nationwide is now 247 in 15 states with 19 deaths, according to the agency's latest update on the nearly 2-week-old outbreak.

Two of the new cases and two of the new deaths were in Tennessee, bringing that hardest-hit state's total to 61 cases and four deaths.

The other two new deaths occurred in Virginia and Florida. Additional cases were also reported in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, and Virginia.

As reported by U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz late Tuesday, federal agents raided the NECC facility in Framingham, Mass., that made the contaminated steroid implicated in the nationwide outbreak.

Three lots of the preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate were shipped to pain clinics in 23 states. The steroid was largely used as a pain medication and was administered via epidural.

Ortiz declined to offer more details on the raid, but did say, "I can confirm that this office and our law enforcement partners are investigating allegations concerning the New England Compounding Center."

Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey (D) also asked on Tuesday that the Justice Department launch an investigation into NECC, noting that its long list of recalled products includes controlled substances.

"This is a matter that I believe requires further investigation by the [Drug Enforcement Administration] to ensure that this facility, already believed to have broken Massachusetts state law, has not also skirted federal law related to controlled substances," Markey, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wrote to the Justice Department.

Markey referenced comments made last week by Massachusetts health officials that NECC may have violated its pharmacy license there.

The lawmaker has already stated he intends to file legislation to give the FDA greater oversight of compounding pharmacies.

Meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce Committee expanded its investigation into the FDA's oversight of NECC, asking for all of its recommendations dating back to 2004, the committee said Wednesday. The agency sent the company a warning letter in December 2006, but told committee members last week in a briefing it couldn't say if any subsequent inspections occurred to insure NECC was operating within good compounding practices.

The FDA said this week it was expanding its investigation of the outbreak to include two other drugs — triamcinolone acetonide injection and cardioplegic solution — made by the company after possible meningitis cases were linked to them.

The CDC is investigating two cases of peripheral joint infections, but no deaths have been linked to those.






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