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More May Be at Risk as U.S. Meningitis Outbreak Widens

Oct. 16 (Bloomberg) -- More drugs from the pharmacy at the center of a meningitis outbreak may be contaminated, putting additional people at risk of contracting the deadly infection, U.S. regulators said.

Any drug meant to be injected that was manufactured by New England Compounding Center may be tainted, the Food and Drug Administration said yesterday on its website. The agency doesn’t know how many people may have received potentially tainted shots, Sarah Clark-Lynn, a spokeswoman for the FDA, said in an e-mail. The agency is working with the Framingham, Massachusetts-based pharmacy to gather more information about product distribution, she said.

The fungal meningitis outbreak that began with a steroid used for back pain has led to 214 infections in 15 U.S. states, killing 15 people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. A second steroid to treat inflammation manufactured by the pharmacy has been linked to another potential meningitis infection, FDA said. Two transplant patients have also experienced fungal infections after being given a drug from the pharmacy meant to induce cardiac muscle paralysis during open-heart surgery, the agency said.

“Patients who received these products should be alerted to the potential risk of infection,” the FDA said today on its website. “The sterility of any injectable drugs, including ophthalmic drugs that are injectable or used in conjunction with eye surgery, and cardioplegic solutions produced by NECC are of significant concern.”

Two Drugs

The steroid for back pain linked to the original meningitis outbreak is methylprednisolone acetate. The second steroid is triamcinolone acetonide. Patients received the medication through an epidural injection

There haven’t been any cases of infections reported in connection with ophthalmic drugs, the FDA said.

NECC recalled all of its products Oct. 6. The company also has ceased operations.

The states where infections have occurred are: Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. About 14,000 who received methylprednisolone acetate may be at risk for meningitis. The fungal meningitis associated with the outbreak isn’t contagious, CDC said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anna Edney in Washington at aedney@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net

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