For the past two weeks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and state health agencies throughout the country have been working diligently and vigorously to put an end to a fungal meningitis outbreak that was initiated by thousands of tainted steroid injections. In the days after the outbreak was reported, dozens of people were confirmed ill and five people have died as a result of contracting meningitis from the injections. Now, the number of people who have fallen ill exceeds 200 and the death count has risen to 16 people, which caused the FDA and government agents to raid the New England Compounding Center outside of Boston yesterday.
The NECC has been identified as the source of more than 17,000 single-dose vials of the steroid injection, otherwise known as preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate, that have been distributed to clinics in at least 23 states. To date, cases of illness and meningitis have been reported in Florida, Tennessee, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Texas, Idaho, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio. But reports of a new infection in a patient who used the steroid triamcinolone acetonide prompted the FDA to raid the NECC facilities and seize all medicines.
According to Reuters, attorneys for the NECC have said that yesterday’s raid was uncalled for and that the laboratory’s officials are cooperating on every level and would have turned everything over to the FDA if simply asked. However, without revealing any specific details, FDA official Janet Woodcock told Reuters that based on the condition of the NECC facilities, the FDA couldn’t “assure the sterility of these products.” In addition to questionable facilities, Reuters also uncovered the fact that the NECC is in violation of its state medical license because it dealt with physicians in bulk orders and did not require individual prescriptions.
Originally, the FDA issued a declaration to physicians who may have administered these steroid shots to collect any doses that had not been used and to contact patients who may have received steroid injections so they could be properly treated for any illnesses. Now the FDA is warning physicians to not use any products that may have come from the NECC, as they could lead to more illnesses and a greater outbreak of meningitis.