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Drug linked to meningitis outbreak not used at Tri-State area hospitals

October 08, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

TRI-STATE — A steroid linked to a deadly outbreak of fungal meningitis has not been used at area hospitals, officials said Monday.

The number of deaths rose Monday by one to eight, with another fatality in Tennessee, according to The Associated Press. The number of people sickened by the meningitis outbreak rose Monday to 105, with reported cases in Tennessee, Michigan, Virginia, Indiana, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina and Ohio, according to health officials.

Investigators suspect a steroid medication made by a specialty pharmacy might be to blame, the AP reported. About 17,700 single-dose vials of the steroid were sent to 23 states. Inspectors found at least one sealed vial contaminated with fungus, and tests were being done on other vials, according to the AP.

“Our pharmacy staffs at both City Hospital and Jefferson Memorial Hospital have done thorough checks of our medications and determined that we have not purchased this medication (methylprednisolone acetate) from the New England Compounding Center (NECC) for our patients,” West Virginia University Hospitals-East spokesperson Teresa McCabe said in a statement Monday.

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“City Hospital has ordered other products from the (pharmacy), but not this specific drug or anything for spinal injection,” McCabe said.

As a precautionary measure, all of the pharmacy’s products have been pulled from the Martinsburg hospital pharmacy’s shelves, McCabe said.

McCabe noted Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Ranson, W.Va., does not use the NECC and has not ordered any products from it.

A spokeswoman for Meritus Medical Center near Hagerstown said Monday evening that the hospital does not use the injection that has been linked to the outbreak of fungal meningitis.

The hospital also does not use any other products from the NECC, which distributed the injection, Joelle Butler said.

According to a spokeswoman for Summit Health, Chambersburg (Pa.) and Waynesboro (Pa.) hospitals did not purchase any affected methylprednisolone acetate products from the NECC.

And, as a precautionary measure, all NECC products have been pulled from Summit Health pharmacy shelves in accordance with the FDA recommendations, she said in an email.

Parkway Neuroscience and Spine Institute and Parkway Surgery Center of Hagerstown issued a statement saying that, “We have not and do not use the identified manufacturer (NECC).”

The pharmacy announced a recall Saturday of all of its products, calling the move a precautionary measure, according to The Associated Press.

The company said in a news release that the recall was done out of an abundance of caution because of the risk of contamination. It said there is no indication that any other products have been contaminated.

The Food and Drug Administration previously told health professionals not to use any products distributed by the center. 

Health officials have been scrambling to notify anyone who might have received an injection of it. The Massachusetts pharmacy that made it has said it is cooperating with investigators.

It is not yet known exactly how many people might have been affected, though it could affect hundreds or even thousands of people who received the steroid injections for back pain from July to September.

Meningitis is caused by the inflammation of protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Fungal meningitis is not contagious like its more common viral and bacterial counterparts.

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