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Fungal Meningitis Death Toll Rises—Class Action Lawsuit Filed

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Boston, MAThe number of deaths from the fungal meningitis outbreak has risen to 15 as of October 13 and health officials report 198 people infected in 13 states.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported the latest death from Indiana on its website and said three additional cases of fungal meningitis had been reported in the state, raising Indiana’s total to 27.

In New Hampshire, four patients have contracted the rare disease—officials in that state believe that 741 New Hampshire patients were exposed to the fungus-contaminated steroid injections at Pain Care LLC’s Somersworth, Merrimack and Newington locations.

All the patients are thought to have been injected with the steroid drug methylprednisolone acetate, which is often used for back pain. The CDC suspect the steroid has been contaminated with a common fungus. A spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported that the Framingham compounding pharmacy, which is now under national investigation, was not following the requirements of its state license. A fungal meningitis class action lawsuit has been brought against the company that may have exposed 14,000 patients to fungal meningitis.

Meanwhile, the New York Times (Oct 12, 2012) reported that Ameridose, a drug manufacturing company with many of the same owners as the New England Compounding Center, did not appropriately test the potency of a drug in 2008. The company was also shipping drugs without waiting the 14 days it took for the sterility test results to come back from an outside lab, which was reported in an industry newsletter, Validation Times.

A pharmacist at Ameridose quit because she was concerned that “unqualified people were helping prepare dangerous narcotics for use by hospitals’ and a quality control technician was overruled by management when he noticed some labels were missing and tried to stop the production line, according to the NYT.

Health officials asked Ameridose to suspend production until an on-site investigation is completed. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is concerned about “quality and safety across the corporate entity”.

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