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Products Liability Blog Post

Defective Medical Products: The Meningitis Outbreak

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates healthcare-associated infections (HAI) afflict one in 20 admitted patients. According to the California Department of Public Health, HAIs account for 200,000 infections and 12,000 deaths in our state annually. Since last summer, a serious and deadly healthcare-associated infection has caught national attention for its enduring damage and needless cause.

In September 2012, researchers identified an outbreak of meningitis among recipients of steroid products produced by New England Compounding Center, a Massachusetts company. Though no cases are currently reported in California, our state was one of 23 that received contaminated products produced by the company.

Among other complaints at New England Compounding, investigators found unsterile conditions, inadequate environmental controls, and brackish fungal material in supposedly sterile product vials of methylprednisolone acetate. The company is now closed and has surrendered its business license.

To date, 664 infections and 40 deaths are reported among approximately 14,000 people who received injections of the contaminated steroid. In December 2012, the CDC issued a health alert advising physicians of at-risk patients to order MRI scans for those still experiencing pain for the following reasons:

  • Virulent fungal material injected near the spine and joints can cause difficult to detect infectious abscesses
  • Treatment of serious infections usually requires surgery and treatment with powerful anti-fungal medication
  • Lack of treatment of a fungal abscess may lead to nerve and tissue damage, disability, meningitis or death

The prominent infectious agent associated with the meningitis outbreak is exserohilum rostratum. In addition to meningitis and fungal infections at injection sites, the fungus is also thought responsible for patients who suffered strokes after receiving contaminated steroid material.

In California and elsewhere, prevention of HAI is essential to public health. Those suffering needless injury or have lost loved ones to defective medical products should consider consulting a personal injury lawyer.

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Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire
2550 Fifth Avenue, 11th Floor
San Diego, California, 92103-6612 USA