Written by Faith Anderson on October 31, 2012
Meningitis Diagnoses and Death Related to Tainted Steroid
The fungal meningitis petition was filed by Robert and Brenda Bansale, the couple who filed one of the first lawsuits against the New England Compounding Center (NECC) – the pharmacy at the center of the meningitis crisis. The NECC’s recalled steroid injections have been blamed for more than 350 cases of fungal meningitis and as many as 25 deaths nationwide. The request indicates that an additional influx of meningitis lawsuits is expected over the coming weeks and months as more and more consumers are diagnosed with fungal meningitis.
The New England Compounding Center terminated operations after more than 17,500 vials of its contaminated steroid injection were recalled by the FDA in early October. Estimates from health officials indicate that more than 14,000 people in at least 23 states may have been exposed to fungal meningitis from the tainted epidural injections. According to the most recent update provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 25 people have died and at least 350 more have fallen ill with symptoms of fungal meningitis after receiving a contaminated steroid injection.
Criminal Investigation Launched Against NECC
The recalled steroids were injected directly into patients’ spines as a treatment for pain, and investigations have now confirmed that sealed vials from the Massachusetts-based NECC facility were contaminated with fungus. Since the outbreak, NECC has shut down its operations and recalled all of its injection products following the initial FDA recall. The company has surrendered its compounding pharmacy license in Massachusetts, and its license was also revoked in Tennessee, the state that was hit hardest by the crisis. In addition to lawsuits filed against the company by affected patients, NECC is also facing criminal investigations on both the state and federal level.
Fungal meningitis is a type of meningitis that, in this particular case, was caused by at least two different types of mold that tainted vials of the NECC’s steroid injection. Fungal meningitis causes inflammation of the spinal cord and the protective membranes surrounding the brain. The inflammation typically causes an infection of the fluid around the brain and spinal cord, resulting in symptoms like stiff neck, vomiting, nausea, headache, fever, mental confusion and increased sensitivity to light. As the disease progresses, the symptoms may become more severe, possibly resulting in seizures, coma and even death.