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Fourteen people have now died and 170 have become ill in the meningitis outbreak linked to contaminated steroid injections that the New England Compounding Center released, U.S. health officials reported.
The patients infected were thought to be affected by a tainted fungus that was found in methylprednisolone acetate, a steroid drug commonly used for back pain, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“While there is no indication at this time of any contamination in other NECC a product, this recall is being taken as a precautionary measure,” said a spokesperson for the New England based company.
Meningitis is a disease in which the membranes of the spinal cord become inflammated, and an injection is given to help the symptoms, but can put a contaminant in direct contact with the lining. It can cause feelings of nausea, fever, and headaches. The CDC has said the symptoms have varied from mild pain to strokes. The symptoms tend to affect patients after three to four weeks.
23 states have received the injections from the Boston based company, and have begun tracking down patients who received the injections. U.S. health officials believe that over 13,000 patients may have received these tainted shots.
“We urge Congress to give FDA (the Food and Drug Administration) the authority it needs to assure these kinds of outbreaks do not happen again,” said a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services official.
The U.S. House and Senate members from both parties are asking federal health officials on Tuesday for information on the outbreak to work toward a legislation to strengthen federal drug safety regulations.
The outbreak has highlighted a major flaw in regulation of drugs in compounding pharmacies, which are facilities that take ingredients for medications and package them into dosages for clients.
The steroids have been the primary target of investigation, but health officials believe the anesthetic could have triggered the outbreak, experts said.