The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned about an outbreak of fungal meningitis that affects several states, including Maryland. Meningitis is a serious and potentially fatal infection near the brain and spinal cord that can cause brain damage or death. Anyone at risk should get to the hospital immediately for evaluation.
There is a huge buzz out there for potential cases. The Maryland Daily Record just wrote an article this morning about how lawyers are racing to these cases. Every lawyer with a website and/or a budget to run commercials is talking about these cases. Some information is very good and helpful to other attorneys and potential victims. Some of it is just liberally borrowed from another website that copied off of someone else. Some lawyers definitely know how to put the copy in copycat.
Anyway, this blog post tries to lay out the issue both for lawyers who many have potential cases and for potential victims looking for real information on these cases.
Defective Drugs and Procedures?
The New England Compounding Center (NECC) is a pharmacy that provides customized medicine for patients. These medicines are often not common enough for regular pharmacies to carry in stock. Or, the compounding pharmacies can provide the medication cheaper than drug factories. Importantly, the FDA does not inspect compounding pharmacies, even though it may inspect drug manufacturing facilities. There is a substantial risk of error in compounding facilities. NECC has recalled all products created at its Framingham, Massachusetts facility.
These numbers are changing daily. As of October 10, 2012:
- 23 states have received contaminated, meningitis-causing steroids
- People in 10 states have been diagnosed with meningitis, likely caused by the steroids
- 137 people have been diagnosed with meningitis, likely caused by the steroids
- 12 deaths have been connected to meningitis caused by the steroids
- NECC shipped over 17,000 vials of the steroid
The list of products is extensive, but at this point, the drug that is concerning and linked to the meningitis outbreak is methylprednisolone acetate (PF) given on or after May 21, 2012. This drug is an epidural steroid injection, meaning that it is a shot, usually given in the back, directly into the spinal area. The steroids can also be injected elsewhere, like the knee. Steroids are used to decrease inflammation (swelling), which often provides pain relief.
The hospitals and medical facilities that have received these drugs (in 23 states) can be found here. In Maryland, where at least one person has died, the facilities are:
- Baltimore Pain Management (Baltimore)
- Berlin Interventional Pain Management (Berlin)
- Box Hill Surgery Center (Abingdon)
- Greenspring Surgery Center (Baltimore)
- Harford County ASE, LLC (Edgewood)
- Pain Medicine Specialists (Towson)
- Surgcenter of Bel Air (Bel Air)
What is Meningitis?
Meningitis is a swelling of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by a virus, bacteria, or fungus. In the cases of the epidural steroids, patients are developing fungal meningitis.
The symptoms seem to be arising within one to four weeks after the injection. Those symptoms, which might not seem significant can include headache, stiff neck, fever, light sensitivity, slurred speech, or weakness. Exposed patients may be given an anti-fungal medication as a precaution. Diagnosis may be made with a lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap. The doctor will collect a small sample of cerebrospinal fluid, and run tests to see if the patient has fungal meningitis.
It can take months of treatment to cure meningitis if it is caught in time. If not, it can cause permanent brain injury or death.
How Do I Know if I have a Maryland Meningitis Lawsuit?
Call our product liability lawyers at 1.800.553.8082 to find out if you have a steroid meningitis lawsuit. Even if you are not sure if you have meningitis, but you received a steroid shot at one of the affected Maryland (or other state) facilities, or if you have been instructed to go to the doctor or hospital for testing, we can help. You can also contact us online.
For More Information
- FDA Statement (October 5, 2010)
- FDA Q&A on Fungal Meningitis Outbreak (October 7, 2012)
- CDC Health Advisory (October 4, 2012)
- CDC: Patient Guidance (October 10, 2012)