Between May 21 and September 26, people in Maryland and throughout the United States receiving epidural steroid injections were at risk of contracting potentially deadly fungal meningitis. We all know the story—a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts, which is now being investigated by the federal government, was responsible for this massive outbreak.
The source is contaminated epidural steroid injections. We are very familiar with these types of injections, as they are frequently used for patients with serious back pain. Many of our workers’ compensation clients and automobile accident clients have relied on these types of injections through the years. The injections can also be used directly for joint pain.
Updated Facts & Figures
- 2 Maryland deaths
- 25 Maryland infections
- 590 nationwide infections
- 37 nationwide deaths
- 17,676 vials of the steroid were recalled by the pharmacy
- As many as 14,000 patients received contaminated injections
What Is Meningitis?
Fungal meningitis, the type of meningitis at issue here, is an infection that inflames the membranes which cover the spinal cord and brain. It’s not contagious, but can obviously be spread through contaminated drug products.
Meningitis can be fatal and can cause serious brain damage. Symptoms include light sensitivity, changes in mental status (confusion), changes in personality, nausea, vomiting and hallucinations. People with those symptoms should be taken to the hospital immediately.
What Is A Compounding Pharmacy?
Most drugs are created and manufactured by drug companies. These are typically one-size-fits-all, with the drug companies making concentrations and dosages to fit the most common prescriptions. Compounding pharmacies have been traditionally used to customize medication to a particular patient’s needs. Sometimes the existing drugs are not sufficient because of dosage or perhaps because a patient is allergic to some of the ordinary components. Compounding pharmacies can even make drugs better tasting for children by adding flavoring. Drugs from compounding pharmacies represent about one to three percent of all prescription drugs.
One of the big questions here is why the pharmacy was sending out so many of these injections—compounding pharmacies don’t typically deal in bulk (at least, we don’t expect them to).
There have been at least 50 federal lawsuits filed across nine states. This doesn’t include the countless state court lawsuits that are being added almost daily. A Boston judge recently ordered the New England pharmacy to preserve potential evidence. That’s one bit of good news for victims, who unfortunately may be limited in terms of their recovery given the large number of victims and the (quite probably) relatively low amount of insurance or assets held by the compounding pharmacy. Lawyers are exploring other options, for example, lawsuits against the individual pharmacists, founders and sales team of the pharmacy, or even the health care providers which ordered the medication in such bulk. Victims should not give up hope—there are still possibilities.
Our lawyers can help you to answer any questions you have about your legal rights after exposure to a tainted epidural injection. Contact us at 1-800-776-4529, or fill out our contact form for a no-charge consultation.
More Meningitis Contamination Information
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Meningitis (General)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Fungal Meningitis Outbreak Investigation
- List of facilities that received recalled epidural injections