Saturday, November 24, 2012
Patients say their cases ignored in meningitis outbreak
5:07PM EST November 24. 2012 - 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.
Health officials say they are watching closely and haven't yet confirmed any illnesses related to other drugs from New England Compounding or its sister company, Ameridose, both of which recalled all products amid sterility concerns.
Developments last week, however, indicate that the scope of the outbreak could be wider than previously believed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported finding a new batch of bacterial and fungal contaminants in drugs from New England Compounding. Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a surge in epidural abscesses and bone infections among patients treated with three suspect lots of methylprednisolone acetate. Previously, the dominant infection had been fungal meningitis.
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.
Questions about infection
Molds such as Aspergillus are common in the environment and have been known to sicken patients with weakened immune systems in rare instances. But Moody and his wife, Joy, are convinced that his fungal infections were triggered by the drugs he was given through a port.
Like hundreds of others across the country, Bret Moody got a letter telling him that during a recent hospital stay, he was treated with drugs from New England Compounding.
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