As I wrote yesterday, car accident victims often seek relief from their spinal injuries with epidural steroid injections. Eddie C. Lovelace, a Kentucky judge was one on those accident victims who sought relief. Judge Lovelace had a car accident that left him with severe neck pain. Accordingly, he sought steroid injections for relief.
Rather than getting relief from the medicine that was supposed to help him feel better, Judge Lovelace died from meningitis. Health officials believe the steroid injection he received was contaminated with a fungus.
Now we are faced with asking, "How does this happen?" Like any other crisis (mortgage, stock manipulation) the answers are:
Does that combination of factors sound familiar?
Doctors, surgery centers, and pain clinics looking to make more money have turned away from major drug manufacturers and have taken their business to so-called compounding pharmacies, like New England Compounding, which mix up batches of drugs on their own, often for much lower prices than major manufacturers charge -- and with little of the federal oversight of drug safety and quality that is routine for the big companies. While the F.D.A. regulates manufacturers, these "compounders" are not manufacturers, but rather they are considered pharmacies. The F.D.A. has no regulatory authority over pharmacies, and thus "compounders" are under the authority of individual states. Thus, there is no uniform regulation.
A reported by the New York Times, New England Compounding sold 17,676 vials of an unsafe drug to pain clinics in 23 states, including Florida.
Pain clinics and the profits from peoples pain are big money. It is estimated that 5 million people received epidural steroid injections in 2011. The injections created a demand for steroids, including methylprednisolone acetate, the drug that New England Compounding was making.
As a Miami Personal Injury Lawyer, a number of my clients have undergone this procedure. Some get relief, while some do not. The injections are typically administered in a series of three, 2 weeks apart.
Meningitis can be caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi. Doctors say that the fungal type is the hardest to treat and devastating to patients because it can cause strokes. And indeed, some of the patients in the current outbreak have suffered strokes.
Again, as with all crisis we will now look back and realize the mistakes in the previous policy. Regulations and oversight will be put in place, and these "Compounding Pharmacies" will fall under federal regulation. Hopefully, doctors will do some independent research into the drugs they are administering to their patients, and will not sacrifice safety for profits.