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Meningitis outbreak acerbates drug shortage

Production shutdown of Ameridose may impact supplies of certain drugs

WASHINGTON | October 24, 2012

U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials say the meningitis outbreak that has sickened 308 people and killed 23 is acerbating an ongoing drug shortage.

"The FDA is aware many hospitals and clinics across the country are customers of Ameridose and that the current production shutdown of Ameridose may impact supplies of certain drugs for some healthcare systems," the FDA's website said.

Ameridose is a pharmacy, owned by the same parent company as the Massachusetts compounding pharmacy linked to the meningitis outbreak, is scheduled to be closed for another two weeks to conduct a comprehensive investigation of facility operations, health officials said last week.

The Westborough facility of Ameridose was closed Oct. 10 to allow investigators and regulators to complete an inspection after its sister pharmacy, the New England Compounding Center in Framingham was linked to fungal meningitis.

The drug shortage -- especially cancer drugs -- has been a problem for years. The FDA has said most of the shortages were due to product quality concerns -- drugs contaminated by mold, human hair or spiders -- and production delays caused by a lack of supplies. However, some drug companies just stopped making some injectable drugs.

In the current fungal meningitis outbreak, U.S. health officials confirmed the fungus Exserohilum rostratum was detected in unopened vials of a preservative-free steroid -- methylprednisolone acetate. About 17,000 doses of the steroid were shipped from the NECC and an estimated 14,000 were used in treatment to ease back and joint pain. Patients have become ill about one to four weeks following the injection, but health officials said the fungus can take time to develop so there could be cases for months.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said: Tennessee was the first state to identify the fungal meningitis and had the most cases at 70 and nine deaths, followed by: 68 cases in Michigan and five deaths; 41 cases and two deaths in Virginia; 40 cases in Indiana and two deaths; 17 cases and one death in Maryland; 19 cases and three deaths in Florida; seven cases in Minnesota; 10 cases in New Hampshire; 11 cases in Ohio; two cases in North Carolina and one death; 17 cases in New Jersey, one case each in Idaho, New York, Illinois, Texas, Pennsylvania and Georgia.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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