Sunday, March 31, 2013

As officials investigate, patients fear the future

Lawsuits in meningitis outbreak aim to ease toll from mounting bills, failing health.

DETROIT -- In September, Milda Mattila became unsteady on her legs. Soon, she was unable to walk.
The 87-year-old South Lyon, Mich., woman had been infected with fungal meningitis through a tainted steroid shot meant to relieve back pain.
"Why did I have to get this?" she asked her family.
That question fills households and hospital rooms as hundreds of people struggle with the physical, emotional and financial scars left in the wake of the national fungal meningitis outbreak that has killed at least 51 people. Nationwide, 730 people have fallen ill.
Investigations of the compounding pharmacy that produced the tainted shots are ongoing. Lawmakers and officials at federal and state agencies are trying to make sure that a similar crisis never happens again. Patients face an uncertain future with no ready answers on whether they will ever fully recover or who will pay their mounting hospital bills. Lawsuits are pending, but the company behind the outbreak has filed for bankruptcy protection.
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