Intended for healthcare professionals


More US citizens die from meningitis as scope of inquiry widens

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 19 October 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7095
  1. Edward Davies
  1. 1BMJ, New York

Concern over the drug at the centre of a meningitis outbreak across the United States has widened to include further products as the death toll reached 19 and those infected almost 250.

The Food and Drug Administration has given state health departments a list of more than 131 000 shipping invoices for products sent all over the US from the New England Compounding Center. As well as the contaminated spinal steroid injections that caused the initial concern, which has been found to be contaminated by a fungus,1 the FDA has now also sent out alerts about drugs used during open heart surgery and eye operations, as well as a second steroid used for spinal injections.

Federal health officials are now warning anybody who received any injectable drugs made by the facility in Framingham, Massachusetts, at the center of the meningitis outbreak. In a statement posted on its website the FDA said, “At this point in the FDA’s investigation, the sterility of any injectable drugs, including ophthalmic drugs that are injectable or used in conjunction with eye surgery, and cardioplegic solutions produced by NECC [New England Compounding Center] are of significant concern, and out of an abundance of caution, patients who received these products should be alerted to the potential risk of infection,”

The New York Times has reported that an expert panel met on Wednesday 17 October to reconsider the idea of preventive treatment.2

John Jernigan, a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that health officials from Tennessee had gathered data that might make it possible to identify which patients exposed to the suspect drug had the highest risk of being infected and might benefit from very early treatment. He said that health officials realized that some patients might prefer the risk of kidney or liver problems, possible side effects of the treatment, to the risk of meningitis and stroke.


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7095