Steroid shots grew in danger over time
The longer the steroids that killed 31 people sat, the more dangerous they became, a study by health officials in Tennessee has found.
Of nearly 150 Tennessee patients who were exposed to possibly contaminated steroid injections, those who received them from vials more than 50 days old were five times more likely to develop meningitis than those whose medicine came from vials less than 50 days old. The rate of infection for those who got the older medicine was 19 percent, dramatically higher than the 3 percent for those who received fresher medication.
“The longer something sits, the longer that culture medium has to grow and nurture a really lethal batch of the infectious agent,” said Albert Wu, director of the Center for Health Services and Outcomes Research at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
The steroid was produced by New England Compounding Center (NECC) in Framingham, Mass. It is blamed in a nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis that has sickened 424 people and killed 31. It was injected as a relief for spine and joint pain.
Two things went wrong. First, drugs from a compounding pharmacy typically wouldn't have sat for 50 days before being used. The pharmacist would make up the drug when it was prescribed and hand it to the patient or “send it over to the doctor, where it would be used the next day,” said Michael Posey, editor of Pharmacy Today.
Second, and more important, the drugs from NECC weren't sterile. The company claimed to have performed sterility tests on its products, but the Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy says the testing was inadequate and shipments were made before the safety of the medicines had been verified. The company could not be reached for comment.
If the drug had been sterile, as the medical centers that bought it believed, a longer shelf life would not have been a problem, said Timothy Jones, Tennessee state epidemiologist and senior author on the study, published in this week's edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. “If there's nothing in there, then there's nothing to grow.”
Unbeknownst to the physicians administering the shots, the drug was contaminated with fungus. Jones said the doctors who administered the injections were not at fault.
“There's just nothing they could have done,” he said. “Really, it honestly was not anything they could have known.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Chrysler recalls up to 792K Jeep SUVs for ignition switch defect
- Outfielder Polanco driving force for Pirates in victory over Dodgers
- Starkey: Pirates, Burnett could work again
- Allegheny County warns of uptick in Lyme disease cases
- Polamalu enters training camp as Steelers’ longest tenured player
- Pirates notebook: Phillies’ Burnett not demanding trade
- Paterno son, another ex-football assistant coach suing PSU
- Pop star Perry brings high-energy world tour to Consol
- Wolf says he’ll work with state legislature to deal with pension woes
- Selig: Pirates’ rebirth a positive step for baseball
- Mill Run, Dunbar prepare for FCBL postseason play