by Ted Purlain
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is continuing to track the number of patients with illnesses relating to the use of contaminated products from a Massachusetts-based compounding pharmacy.
The CDC said that it is still receiving reports of patients presenting symptoms of paraspinal or spinal infections, including epidural abscess, phlegmon, discitis, vertebral osteomyelitis and arachnoiditis. The syndromes have occurred in patients with and without additional evidence of the onset of fungal meningitis.
A map and corresponding table produced by the CDC shows 656 cases related to contaminated batches sent from the pharmacy to locations across the country. Michigan has identified 232 total cases, the largest number by far. Virginia, Tennessee, New Jersey and Indiana were also severely affected.
The New England Compounding Center, the pharmacy linked to the infections, is currently under investigation by federal and state authorities.
In response to the outbreak, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now asking Congress to delineate and enhance its authorities over compounding pharmacies. Some in Congress have already voiced opposition to the idea, arguing that the agency already has too much power.
By law, compounding pharmacies like the New England Compounding Center, which sold the tainted steroid injections behind the outbreak, are regulated primarily by states. Despite having information in 2002 that NECC might be unsafe, the FDA could do little when the center’s chief pharmacist refused to cooperate with inspectors, according to Richmond.LegalExaminer.com.