When Medication is Bad: The Meningitis Outbreak

For people suffering back pain across the United States, it was offered as a means to relieve pain — steroid injections to relieve inflammation from chronic joint troubles. For some who received injections of medications compounded at the New England Compounding Center (NECC), the pain only got worse.

A year ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) became involved in an investigation into an outbreak of spinal meningitis. Moving quickly, these agencies identified the source of contamination as the NECC, but not in time to stop the death and disease that would follow the patients who were injected with contaminated material.

The steroid injections were prepared in non-sterile conditions and found to contain fungal spores. Shortly after injection, some patients developed the meningitis that alerted health authorities. As of June of this year, 58 people across the country have died from meningitis and other complications of the contaminated medication.

In North Carolina, there have been 18 cases and 14 of those patients suffered fungal infection that occurred after the primary wave of meningitis. While the products of NECC have been recalled, spinal abscess and infection is still occurring in some patients. Symptoms of fungal infection include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Inflammation or swelling
  • Pain or burning pain
  • Numbness in back or legs below injection site
  • Difficulty with bladder, bowel or sexual function

Treatment for spinal infection or abscess includes surgery and the use of strong anti-fungal medications that are not without side effects. If you received a spinal injection, check with your doctor about the origin of the steroid and whether you should receive further testing. If injured, seek experienced legal counsel concerning your rights to compensation in North Carolina.

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