Health reports reveal that the national outbreak of growing meningitis cases across 5 states in the US is unfortunately linked to lumbar epidural spinal injections. Now, this bit of finding, reported in NYTimes is not good news at all, since the pain-relief spinal injections are very popular with patients, looking for some temporary succor from pain.
It was the presence of Aspergillus (a fungus), found on culturing the spinal fluid of meningitis-infected patients, which has nailed the cause for the meningitis outbreak. Now, apart from fungi, even bacteria and viruses can cause meningitis, but meningitis caused by fungus is especially difficult to treat and may cause fatal strokes too. And that is precisely what is happening.
So are all lumbar epidural spinal injections bad news? No, only preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate (mix of a drug and steroid) made by New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., are the ones, which are the cause of this meningitis outbreak.
Women who have just given birth need not be worried at all, since the lumbar epidural spinal injections are different from the lumbar injections which are given at childbirth.
Is there a need to push the panic button yet? As per New York Times, the numbers do not seem very encouraging. As of now, there have been 7 deaths reported, 57 have been diagnosed ill, and the worst news of all, many thousands exposed, all because the compounding company New England has dispatched about 17,676 vials of the unsafe drug to pain clinics across 23 states.
Ideally, compounding companies are meant to serve just local areas, but since these companies are no less that mini drug manufacturing companies now, they are able to service so many states. The law is being circumvented, as rightly pointed out by Sheldon T. Bradshaw, a lawyer in Washington and an ex-chief counsel for the F.D.A. from 2005 to 2007. Sharing his views, he told NYTimes,
Large-scale compounders often behave like manufacturers, complete with sales teams that market their products to doctors. And they do not have to abide by the F.D.A.’s regulations, which require that problems with products be reported to the agency. Some of these companies are just setting up big manufacturing shops in the guise of traditional compounding and making drugs that are, for the most part, commercially available. Instead of making fake Rolexes, they are making fake drugs.
Preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate made by New England Company has now been recalled on a nationwide basis. In the meantime, those who have been recipients of lumbar epidural steroid injections, need to look out for telling symptoms like slurred speech, headache, fever and dizziness, because the best way to assure speedy recovery is to be diagnosed as early as possible.
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