Meningitis From Back Pain Injections


Contamination has been found in vials containing steroid injections manufactured by a compounding pharmacy and has resulted in the outbreak of meningitis causing death and widespread sickness. Meningitis from back pain injections have made the FDA consider creating new regulations to scrutinize compounding pharmacies while manufacturing drugs. Methylprednisolone acetate is the drug found in the vials of the back pain injections, which has been linked with causing Meningitis. A recent article published in the Seattle Times stated that 14,000 people are at risk of contacting Meningitis after having been given steroid injections. There is a concerted effort to bring in legislation to oversee compounding pharmacies that have been exempted from FDA supervision to date.



Understand exactly what meningitis is with helpful information from Doctor Steven Beutler from




Meningitis From Back Pain Injections

About 14,000 people who received pain-relieving steroid shots may be at risk for meningitis because of a fungal contamination that’s already led to the deaths of 14 people, U.S. regulators said.


The fungus strain is “new territory” that’s never before caused meningitis, said Todd Weber, who is overseeing the federal probe for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a conference call with reporters yesterday.


The outbreak resulted from contaminated vials traced to a compounding pharmacy in Framingham, Massachusetts that mixed the drug and sold it to 75 hospitals and pain clinics in 23 states. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will work with Congress to create new regulations allowing the agency to better oversee the actions of such pharmacies in the future, said Deborah Autor, a deputy commissioner at the agency.


“We want to sit down with pharmacists and lawmakers and think about a scheme that recognizes that the industry and practice of pharmacy have evolved over time, and put in place a risk-based scheme,” said Autor, of the FDA’s global regulatory operations and policy unit, on the call.


About 7,500 compounding pharmacies now are largely exempt from FDA oversight, since they’re only supposed to prepare individual prescriptions unavailable through regular avenues, such as those with a unique dosage. The drug methylprednisolone acetate was apparently contaminated during the mixing process.


Injections of the tainted steroid were given starting May 21, the Atlanta-based CDC said on the call and, as of yesterday, at least 169 people had been infected. Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord usually caused by an infection from a virus or bacteria.


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The recent viral meningitis outbreak has been cause for panic for back pain sufferers who have had epidural injections

Here is another interesting article on this vary alarming topic from the Seattle Times.

What Is Meningitis?

Question: What is meningitis?


Answer: Meningitis is an infection that causes inflammation of the meninges, the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. The infection can be viral, bacterial or fungal. Those who have become sick as a result of the recent outbreak are suffering from a fungal variety.


Fungal meningitis is extremely rare, though it can be caused by spores commonly found in the environment. Thus far, laboratory testing by the CDC has identified the fungus Exserohilum in 10 infected people and Aspergillus in one other person.


Q: Is fungal meningitis contagious?


A: No, the infection can’t travel from person to person. The fungus infects people once it’s injected into the central nervous system.


Other types of meningitis are contagious. According to the CDC, the bacterial variety can be passed through nose and throat fluids (such as during kissing), and the viral variety is often spread by fecal contamination (when people don’t wash hands after using the toilet).


Q: What are the symptoms of fungal meningitis?


A: They can include weakness, worsened back pain, stiff necks, mild headaches, light sensitivity, fever and slurred speech. The symptoms can be slight, the CDC says.


Q: What is the source of the outbreak?


A: Investigators have linked it to a steroid treatment that is injected into the spinal column to alleviate back pain. This is a very common procedure — millions of patients receive injections each year, said Dr.ShahedaQuraishi, a physiatrist at the Cushing Neuroscience Institute on Long Island in New York.


The drug in question — preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate — came from the New England Compounding Center (NECC) in Framingham, Mass. Three tainted batches of the steroid were sent to 75 medical facilities in 23 states. NECC has since shut down and recalled all of its products.


Thus far, Tennessee has been hit hardest by the outbreak, with six deaths.


Q: Why was the steroid injection preservative free?


A: Preservatives can cause arachnoiditis, an inflammation of the arachnoid layer of the spinal cord and brain, Quraishi said. Some patients may also have allergies. So it’s generally best to avoid putting them in epidural injections.


Q: Who is at risk?


A: People who have had an injection and who are experiencing any symptoms should contact a doctor as soon as possible, the CDC said.


The incubation period is usually between one and four weeks, but the CDC says infections have been known to surface outside that window, and the contaminated steroid could have been given as early as May 21.


Q: What is a compounding facility?


A: These facilities are set up to create medicines that are tailored to a specific patient’s needs. They can take a manufacturer’s drug and raise or lower the dose or change it from solid to liquid form. They’ve grown popular with smaller clinics and private practices as a more affordable alternative to buying drugs in bulk straight from manufacturers, Quraishi said.


Q: How did the fungus get into the steroid in the first place?


A: It’s unclear — the CDC’s investigation is ongoing on that point. Experts from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health are assisting.


“Something like this should never happen,” Quraishi said. “That’s the bottom line.”
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Meningitis from back pain injections is now a strong talking point across the world. There are certain facts to be aware of in order to create heightened awareness of Meningitis, which is the inflammation of the membrane inside the brain due to viral infection. While it is not contagious, the symptoms are stiffness in the neck, worsening back pain, mild headache, weakness, slurred speech, and light sensitivity.
The preservative-free steroid injection for back pain is seen as the cause of this outbreak. So rather than making your back pain better, this steroid injection could make you seriously ill. Compounding pharmacies that have been manufacturing drugs that are customized according to the needs of the patient could be responsible for the outbreak, so an investigation is ongoing to find out how the fungus got into the steroid.



This video outlines what you need to know about meningitis – defines the meaning of meningitis, types of meningitis, the incidence of meningitis in the world we live in, the availability of vaccines and the need to be informed. By Melford Taylor, RN of Mak Volunter.




Mark Schlesinger, M.D., chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology at Hackensack UMC and Manuel Alvarez, M.D., chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Hackensack UMC were recently interviewed about the deadly fungal meningitis outbreak on Fox 5 News.





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