As of this week, the deadly fungal meningitis outbreak has spread to 15 states, including Ohio. It has already infected 230 victims and killed at least 15 people. The manufacturer, the New England Compounding Center, has recalled more than 17,000 doses of contaminated steroid injections and experts worry that as many as 14,000 patients could be at risk of contracting meningitis.
Although federal investigators are still determining what the manufacturer did wrong to cause the outbreak, Ohio fungal meningitis victims need to know that they have options. This kind of pharmacy error should not have happened and fungal meningitis victims should hold the manufacturer accountable for its dangerous negligence. If you have been injured by a defective drug, you may need to speak with a defective product lawyer to learn more about your legal rights.
Drug Compounders Usually Do Not Make Batches This Large
Compounding companies manufacture various drugs and medications. Normally, they fill small orders on a case-by-case basis for individual patients. This case is somewhat of an exception because the New England Compounding Center was working on many orders at a time. Instead of manufacturing drugs in small batches, the company was cranking out steroid doses at a massive rate. For the company to create steroid batches as large as the ones involved here, it would have had about 20 gallons sitting around its facility at a time.
For many types of drugs, this would not create a problem. But this steroid does not include any kind of sterilizing preservatives. That means that the drug is highly vulnerable to infections or contaminations. It must stay in a carefully sterile environment at all times until it is packaged into vials for shipment. One consultant said that it is very risky to make large batches of drugs without preservatives—the chances of contamination become much higher.
Possible Causes Behind The Outbreak
Federal authorities are investigating the facility and have not announced how fungal spores contaminated the steroids. The possibilities are endless.
For example, a worker might have walked outside to smoke a cigarette and picked up the fungus on the soles of his shoes. By not following sterilization protocols to the letter, the worker could easily track the fungus back inside, where it could contaminate the steroids. Alternatively, an employee might have failed to keep equipment completely sterile or left the steroids sitting open and vulnerable to contamination.
This outbreak involved negligence on the part of the manufacturer or its employees. Drug manufacturers have an obligation to provide safe products—not medications filled with dangerous infections. Any victim who suffered fungal meningitis symptoms after facing exposure to these contaminated steroids should consult an experienced attorney immediately.