Deadly meningitis outbreak tied to more drugs, FDA says

Oct. 19, 2012

A second steroid manufactured by New England Compounding Center (NECC) has been linked to potential meningitis infection, U.S. regulators say. Methylprednisolone acetate, used as an injection for back pain and produced by the Framingham, MA-based pharmacy, had already been tied to a fungal meningitis outbreak that has led to at least 214 infections in 15 U.S. states, killing 15 people. Now triamcinolone acetonide, a steroid used to treat skin conditions that result in itching, redness, dryness, and inflammation, has been associated with the outbreak, according to the National Institutes of Health. The patients received the medication through an epidural injection. Transplant patients have also experienced fungal infections after being given a drug from NECC meant to induce cardiac muscle paralysis during open-heart surgery, the FDA says.

“Patients who received these products should be alerted to the potential risk of infection,” the FDA says on its website. “The sterility of any injectable drugs, including ophthalmic drugs that are injectable or used in conjunction with eye surgery, and cardioplegic solutions produced by NECC are of significant concern.” As this issue of LABline blasts, there haven’t been any cases of infections reported in connection with ophthalmic drugs.

NECC recalled all of its products Oct. 6, and the company has ceased operations. On Oct. 16, FDA criminal investigators searched the company’s premises, an act that one of its lawyers, Paul Cirel, called “difficult to understand.” Cirel told the Associated Press that the company has been cooperating fully with investigators. Follow news of the outbreak on the CDC site.