The number of personal injury and wrongful death cases associated with the fungal meningitis outbreak has grown to 137 CDC-confirmed cases of meningitis, 12 of them fatal. The legal community has taken notice.
“This outbreak is a national tragedy that could have been prevented. Compounding pharmacies like New England Compounding Center, the maker of steroid injections associated with the outbreak, are operating with little or no effective oversight and regulations,” said Fred Pritzker, an attorney who has been contacted by several patients wanting to know their legal rights. “I am hoping meningitis lawsuits filed on behalf of patients will send a message to the compounding pharmacy industry and Congress that action needs to be taken to prevent this from happening again.”
The states and number of confirmed cases was updated this afternoon as follows: Florida (6, 1 death), Indiana (15), Maryland (9, 1 death), Michigan (28, 3 deaths), Minnesota (3), New Jersey (2), North Carolina (2), Ohio (1), Tennessee (44, 6 deaths) and Virginia (28, 1 death). These numbers have gone up daily, and given the incubation period (possibly 3 months), they will continue to grow for some time.
Health officials believe that preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate made by New England Compounding Center (NECC) was contaminated during the compounding process with fungus. Fungal meningitis can develop after a fungus spreads into the bloodstream, or as a result of fungus being introduced directly into the central nervous system. The latter is the case in this outbreak. The fungi identified include Aspergillus fumigatus and Exserohilum, which are usually found in leaf mold, grass, and rotting wood. Several patients have had strokes as a result of the meningitis infection.
Dr. Ilisa Bernstein, acting director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Office of Compliance has said, “FDA is in the process of further identifying the fungal contaminate. Our investigation into the source of this outbreak is still ongoing.”