Many of our clients suffer from intractable neck pain and face difficult risk-laden choices as to how to try to obtain relief from their debilitating symptoms. For example, many are given the option of undergoing surgery, which could potentially result in paralysis, or first trying a series of epidural injections. Patients are usually told that the injections may not work, but now they have something more to fear: life-threatening fungal meningitis. The latest report is that there are 119 cases of people who were infected from contaminated steroid injections (preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate (80mg/ml)). 11 people have died and many others have suffered a stroke.
The manufacturer of the contaminant, New England Compounding Center (NECC), recalled more than 17,000 steroids delivered to medical facilities in 23 states on September 26, 2012. Last week, the government told doctors to not use any of the company’s products, but over the weekend NECC voluntarily recalled all 1,200 of its products.
Three facilities in New York State received shipments of the contaminated steroid, Action Sports Medicine and Pain Management in Mineola, Obosa Medical Services in Mount Vernon and Rochester Brain and Spine in Rochester.
The CDC has issued precautionary recommendations to patients who have had an epidural steroid injection since May 21, 2012. The CDC recommends that anyone who has any of the following symptoms should talk to their doctor as soon as possible:
- New or worsening headache
- Sensitivity to light
- Stiff neck
- New weakness or numbness in any part of your body
- Slurred speech
- Increased pain, redness or swelling at your injection site
Patients have had symptoms generally starting from 1 to 4 weeks after their injection. Not all patients who received the medicine will become sick. Fungal meningitis is not contagious.
New England Compounding Center is a compounding pharmacy, a laboratory that creates special formulations of medications in order to fit patients’ healthcare needs. For example, they may change the dose or change the formulation of a medication from a solid to a liquid. Compounding pharmacies are not pharmaceutical companies. Indeed, articles in The New York Times this week chronicled what could be considered a gaping hole in the regulation of prescription drugs for patient safety because compounding pharmacies operate outside of the regulations of the Federal Drug Administration and of state regulations. The Times frighteningly reports that some hospitals and doctors do not know where the medications they prescribe and administer are manufactured, and so in reality cannot be certain of their patient’s safety.