17 Nov 2012

Steroid Injections Cause Fungal Meningitis

A Massachusetts pharmaceutical manufacturing company has announced the recall of all of its products in the wake of a nationwide meningitis outbreak in the United States. As many as 17,000 vials of methylprednisolene acetate that were shipped to 76 clinics in 23 states may be contaminated by the microbial fungus. As of Friday November 16, 2012, 480 cases of fungal meningitis have been reported with 33 fatalities.

Steroid injections are a routine approach to alleviating back and joint pain that does not respond to medication or physiotherapy. Typical side effects include post-injection flare, which is a short-lived inflammatory reaction to the injection material itself. Allergies to corticosteroids themselves are very rare. Normally, steroid injection side effects do not include meningitis.

The company responsible for producing the tainted drug, New England Compounding Center (NECC), announced the total recall as a measure of an ‘abundance of caution.’ In the United States, compounded products are not under the regulation of the FDA. In other words, there is no guarantee of their strength, purity, quality and efficacy. The FDA is conducting an investigation into all steroids and heart drugs produced by NECC and recommending that doctors not prescribe any of their products.

The process of drug compounding is routinely practiced all over the world. It is used to produce unique drugs for individual patients where there are no licensed treatments available. In the United Kingdom, compounded drugs are subject to the same stringent regulations as other drugs that are regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Because of the nature of the fungal meningitis, some new cases are still being identified. The illness can lay dormant for more than 2 months after the exposure.  Risk of death or stroke may decrease but patients may not be in the clear yet.

In the meantime, anyone who received a steroid injection from one of the 76 clinics who experiences symptoms should notify their doctor immediately. These symptoms include: fever, headache, dizziness, nausea, swelling or redness at the site of the injection, numbness or weakness, slurred speech or pain. Symptoms can take more than a month to become apparent.

Unlike other forms of meningitis, such as viral or bacterial, fungal meningitis is not communicable from one person to another. Fungal meningitis lawsuits are just now being filed by affected patients and families, and Pulaski Kherkher, PLLC is helping them take their cases to court for compensation. If you or someone you know has become ill after steroid injections, contact a fungal meningitis lawyer today.