Spinal steroid drug blamed on deadly meningitis outbreak

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Spinal steroid drug blamed on deadly meningitis outbreakFour people have been confirmed dead as part of an outbreak of a rare form of fungal meningitis and a contaminated spinal steroid drug is likely the source.

According to several news reports this week, a total of 26 cases of this rare infection have been confirmed in 5 states by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but thousands of people may be at risk. The source of the outbreak is a contaminated spinal steroid injection, methylprednisolone acetate, commonly given in the treatment of inflammation-related back pain.

The company that manufactures these injectable drugs, New England Compounding Center (NECC), has agreed to issue a voluntary recall on several Lots of the drugs that may also be contaminated. There is a likelihood that many of these injections have already been delivered to patients at clinics across the country. The recall includes the following Lot codes, three in all, of 80-milligram methylprednisolone acetate injections: #05212012@68, #06292012@26 and #08102012@51.

Federal health officials, according to the reports, are working with colleagues at the state level and with Massachusetts’ Board of Pharmacy to determine the source of the contamination and just how many people could be affected and at risk of developing meningitis. It could take close to a month for symptoms of meningitis to develop.