Framingham, Mass. lab in meningitis outbreak shuttered

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October 4, 2012, 8:05 pm
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(NECN: Peter Howe, Boston) - Mass. public health officials Thursday sounded an alarming warning to doctors across the country: Until further notice, do not use any medications made by New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Mass.

The warning doesn’t apply just to an NECC steroid product for spinal-pain relief that’s been linked to an outbreak of fungal meningitis that’s killed five people and sickened over two dozen more in six states, but to all of the dozens of products made by NECC.

Dr. Madeleine Biondolillo of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health said at a late-afternoon press conference the company’s cooperating with investigators, has agreed to relinquish its pharmacy license, and is working to recall all of its products.

Biondolillo said investigators have identified three lots of NECC steroids, totaling 17,676 one-dose vials, that were shipped out between July and September that may be contaminated. The medication is called preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate.

Officials are focusing on a common fungus called aspergillus – it’s typically in mold that grows on bread – which is harmless to humans if it stays outside your body, but if it gets into medication injected in your spinal column or brain, can cause deadly fungal meningitis. (Unlike bacterial or viral meningitis, fungal can’t be transmitted from person to person and isn’t contagious, but can be just as deadly.)

In New England, officials believe the tainted medication was shipped to clinics and centers in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, but not Maine, Massachusetts or Vermont. Pain Care LLC of Merrimack and Somersworth, N.H., said Thursday it was in the process of reaching out to 186 people treated with the NECC product who may be at risk.

Doctors say people who have had injections of the NECC steroid for back pain who are experiencing severe headache, nausea, dizziness or fever should be in contact with their doctor immediately.

With videographers Nik Saragosa and John J. Hammann.

Tags: Boston, massachusetts, Peter Howe, Framingham, Department of Public Health, New England Compounding Center, Madeline Biodolillo, NECC, steroid product, fungal meningitis outbreak
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