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Not all tainted-drug victims counted, critics say

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By The Tennessean
Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, 8:31 p.m.

NASHVILLE — After being treated with drugs from New England Compounding Center, 52-year-old Bret Moody was told he has fungal meningitis. He's infected with Aspergillus, the first contaminant found in a national outbreak of illness tied to tainted medication.

But when health officials count the nearly 500 people sickened by the moldy drugs, they don't include Moody and others like him who fail to match the profile of most victims.

Moody, who also has been diagnosed with leukemia, is one of many patients nationwide who question whether health officials are undercounting the victims of the crisis.

Some got the spinal steroid, methylprednisolone acetate, blamed for the meningitis outbreak that has killed at least 34 nationwide. Some, like Moody, got other drugs from the Massachusetts firm. But if their symptoms are not already linked to the outbreak, they say, medical professionals aren't taking their illnesses seriously.

Dr. Diana Zuckerman, president of the patient advocacy organization National Research Center for Women & Families, said she believes more illnesses caused by contaminated drugs may be under the radar.

“This is the tip of the iceberg,” Zuckerman said.

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