by Julie Ann Madden
It was a simple letter from Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City marked confidential that an Akron woman received on Saturday. But the letter’s contents sparked plenty of fear in her.
The letter notified her that a drug she had been given at the hospital this past June was distributed by the company responsible for the nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak, which has killed 25 people as of 2 p.m., Oct. 27.
“It’s scary,” said the woman who wished to remain anonymous, adding it was a pain killer given through an intravenous site. “People are dying from this company’s contaminated drugs.”
On Oct. 4, the company, New England Compounding Center (NECC), announced it was voluntarily recalling all its drug products it had distributed.
The Federal & Drug Administration (FDA) had previously suggested all medical professional retain, secure and withhold from use all products distributed by NECC.
FDA officials also advised health care professionals who had administered NECC drugs after May 21, 2012, to follow up with their patients and make sure their patients were aware of the signs and symptoms of an infection and instruct them to contact their health care provider immediately if they have any of these symptoms.
Hence, Mercy Medical Center’s sending of the letter.
Symptoms listed in the letter are:
• Feeling generally unwell;
• Experience redness, warmth, inflammation or pain at the injection site; and
• Chest pain or drainage from a surgical site.
If a person was experiencing these symptoms, he or she was to contact their health care provider immediately or go to the hospital’s Emergency Room.
According to the FDA website, Mercy Medical Center of Sioux City used four types of drugs distributed by the NECC: cardioplegia – high and low potassium, nalbuphine, caffeine sodium benzoate and acetylcysteine.
Mercy Medical Center never had NECC’s steriodal injections which are linked to the fungal meningitis outbreak, said Jim Wharton, vice-president of Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City.
As soon as there was even a hint of a problem, we pulled the NECC drugs we had, said Jim Wharton, vice-president of Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City. We were proactive before the FDA recommended doing so.
The FDA suggests patients who received an injection or other product compounded by NECC after May 21 to remain vigilant for the signs and symptoms of infection, including meningitis.
Signs of meningitis include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, photophobia (sensitive to light) and altered mental status.
According to the letter, “except in the cases of NECC steroidal injections (linked to the highly publicized fungal meningitis)and cardioplegia (a solution used in heart surgery), there have been no confirmed reports of infections linked to any other NECC pharmaceuticals at this time.
As of 2 p.m., Oct. 27, there were a total of 344 cases linked to NECC drug infections in 18 states, according to the Center for Disease Control’s website.
Iowa was not on the list of states with cases. However, Minnesota has had nine cases; Illinois, one; Indiana, 44 cases; and Michigan, 82 cases. States where deaths have occurred are Indiana, three deaths; Maryland, one; Michigan, five; North Carolina, one; Tennessee, 10; and Virginia, two.
More information is available at www.fda.gov/drugs.