Overview: The tainted steroid injections believed to be the source of a deadly meningitis outbreak in the US were associated with health risks even before the public health scandal. According to an article in the New York Times, the same injections have also been linked to neurological side effects, including nerve damage, paralysis and stroke.
- Steroid injections of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate manufactured by the New England Compounding Center have been contaminated with fungal meningitis; the outbreak may affect as many as 14,000 people in 23 states
- Even before the meningitis outbreak, the injections were associated with serious complications
- Litigation over the contaminated injections have begun; the first lawsuit was filed in Minnesota
Injections Linked to Neurological Side Effects
The meningitis outbreak has cast a critical light on the increased use of steroid injections. Although the fungal meningitis cases are primarily linked to spinal injections, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not approve them for this use. The agency approved the steroid injections for uses such as relieve inflammation in the joints, but not for epidural injections. The FDA is reviewing the injections in attempt to lower the risk of “catastrophic neurological injuries”.
Dr. William Landau, a professor of neurology at Washington University in St. Louis, feels that the injections were both unnecessary and dangerous. “Not only were these people killed, but there was no ethical reason to give this treatment,” he said the NYT.
Perry D. Clark, a retired media professional from Petoskey, Michigan, is one patient who says he has suffered from painful stinging in his legs for twelve years following a steroid injection near his spine. “It’s like somebody took a hot poker out of a fire and jammed it into my foot for two or three seconds,” he said to the New York Times.
Meningitis Outbreak May Affect Thousands
The tainted medications may affect as many as 14,000 patients across 23 states. So far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has documented 170 cases of fungal meningitis due to the injections, including 14 deaths. The largest concentration of cases has been in Tennessee, where there have been 49 cases and 6 deaths.
Litigation against the New England Compounding Center of Massachusetts has already begun. According to Chicago Tribune, the first lawsuit was filed yesterday in a Minnesota federal court on behalf of a woman who is experiencing symptoms of meningitis after receiving an injection. Compounding companies such as this one specialize in customizing medications; they are subject to lighter regulations than drug manufacturers.