Weitz & Luxenberg investigating cases spawned by steroid-linked meningitis as deaths, illness spread
NEW YORK CITY (updated Oct. 22, 2012) -- With death and injury tolls from a steroid-linked outbreak of meningitis piling up across the nation, the law firm of Weitz & Luxenberg, P.C., indicated it is continuing to investigate potential litigation against those responsible for preparing and distributing the specialty drug.
The law firm’s investigation at this early stage chiefly entails speaking to surviving victims and their families as well as to deceased victims’ next of kin.
“If you or a loved one were affected by this meningitis outbreak, we want to hear from you,” Weitz & Luxenberg said.
Meningitis is an infection of the fluid in the spinal cord and in the area surrounding the brain, the firm explained.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 people died and 285 others became ill after receiving spinal injections of a steroid drug believed contaminated by a fungus.
The CDC said the deaths and illnesses occurred in 16 states: New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, Michigan, Virginia, Indiana, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Idaho.
Health officials identified the steroid as methylprednisolone acetate, and said it had been made by New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass.
New England Compounding Center is a pharmacy allowed to make its own drug products without U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, the New York Times reported on Oct. 5.
The Times indicated that federal inspectors at the New England center on Oct. 3 found particles they identified as a fungus within a sealed vial of the steroid.
The drug is now recalled. The Times wrote that clinics where it was used are “scrambling to warn patients who might have been exposed and health officials are urging anyone feeling ill after a spinal steroid injection to contact a doctor quickly, especially for symptoms like severe headache, fever, nausea, dizziness, loss of balance or slurred speech.”
Citing Massachusetts and federal health officials, the paper said 17,676 vials of the potentially contaminated solution had been distributed to 75 clinics around the U.S. by the time the recall took effect. The CDC estimated that as many as 13,000 patients may have been exposed to the tainted steroid, according to the Wall Street Journal on Oct. 8.
The Times added that New England Compounding Center had complaints registered against it with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality in 2002, 2003, and, most recently, March, 2012.
Further, the FDA has in the past sent warnings to New England Compounding Center concerning other products produced by the pharmacy, The Times learned. The paper also found that New England Compounding Center never applied for accreditation with the Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board, as a number of similar enterprises have done to show they meet the industry’s quality standards.
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