Contaminated steroid causing meningitis linked to new illness

The situation surrounding the deadly meningitis outbreak affecting patients in Pennsylvania and the rest of the country continues to become even more complicated and widespread as patients are vulnerable to a new problem, an epidural abscess. As of Nov. 2, out of the estimated 14,000 patients across the country injected with the contaminated steroid manufactured at the New England Compounding Center, a reported 404 patients have fallen ill with the deadly fungal meningitis infection. Now, some of those patients are also being shown to develop an epidural abscesses. Further, some patients injected with the contaminated steroid that did not develop meningitis are still being shown to develop an abscess. This new wave of infections means many parties are further inquiring where pharmaceutical liability will fall in this deadly outbreak.

The chief medical officer at a hospital in Michigan told the New York Times, “This is a significant shift in the presentation of this fungal infection, and quite concerning. An epidural abscess is very serious. It’s not something we expected.” The chief medical officer reports that her hospital has treated about a third of the hospital’s meningitis patients for an epidural abscess, and an additional 34 patients that did not become infected with meningitis but still developed an abscess after being injected with the contaminated steroid.

It appears the main indicator a patient could have an epidural abscess is pain located around the injection site. However, there will be no outward indication of such an infection, an MRI is necessary to diagnosis this new problem. It appears this is not a common infection, and doctors are proceeding primarily by hoping that a combination of antifungal drugs will aid the patients. Some patients can have the infection cleared when a neurosurgeon cleans and drains the infection, but this cannot be performed on all patients depending upon where the infected tissues are located.

This additional issue surfacing in connection to the use of the infected steroid manufactured by NECC could potentially mean that doctors and clinics could be facing additional lawsuits, depending on how the courts interpret and assign liability in this outbreak. The issue surrounding liability and the legal implications of this deadly outbreak was discussed on this blog recently. Feel free to refer back to that post for more information on that matter.

Source: The New York Times, “Second Illness Is Infecting Those Struck by Meningitis,” Denise Grady, Nov. 2, 2012

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