US Drug safety questioned after meningitis fungal problems

Deadly meningitis outbreak throws doubt on safety of US drugs

The New England Compounding Center — the alleged source of the contaminated steroid that triggered the outbreak — is shown here in Framingham, Massachusetts on October 5, 2012.

Mon Oct 22, 2012 9:34AM GMT

The outbreak of a rare strain of fungal meningitis in the US — linked to contaminated steroid — which has so far killed 23 people nationwide, has thrown doubt on the safety of the medicines provided to the country’s citizens.

Uncertainty has surrounded the practice of compounding — mixing drugs for individuals — in the country after the steroid, thought to have been issued from the New England Compounding Center specialty pharmacy in Massachusetts, triggered the outbreak, The Washington Post reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services’, has said the number of infections has risen to 284 in 16 states.

It is feared to have been sent in more than 17,000 vials from the center to 23 states and used by almost 14,000 people. The pharmacy has been shut down and its products recalled.

Tennessee has taken the brunt of the outbreak, with 69 cases and nine deaths. Michigan comes next, having reported 53 infections and five fatalities.

Other states reporting worrying trends include Florida, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia.

The Massachusetts pharmacy has so far faced separate complaints, filed by at least 12 people with federal and state courts, with attorneys for many of the victims predicting the number of suits to skyrocket over the coming weeks.

Compounding first started to raise concerns after a brain infection was linked to a compounding pharmacy.

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