Eddie C. Lovelace, a Kentucky judge, was still on the bench into his late 70s, despite suffering from severe neck pain due to a car accident. Like many other patients in chronic pain, Judge Lovelace sought epidural spinal injections for pain relief. Unfortunately, he was the first victim to die from fungal meningitis possibly related to contamination of the injection he received in his neck.
Fungal meningitis is usually seen in patients with weakened immune systems and rarely seen in healthy individuals. However, since the steroid medication is injected directly into the epidural space, it bypasses the body's normal defense mechanisms rendering them useless to fight off the fungal aspergillus infection. Symptoms of bacterial or fungal meningitis are irritability, fever, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, sensitive to light, and hallucinations. If not diagnosed and treated appropriately it could lead to seizures, coma or even death. Even if medical treatment is given, there is still the risk of hearing loss, brain damage, speech complications, stroke, and paralysis.
To date, there have been 91 confirmed fungal meningitis cases and seven deaths reported in nine states, causing the epidural medication to be pulled from pain clinics, doctor offices and hospitals. It is feared that hundreds or even thousands of people who received the injections for neck or back pain could be affected. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the states that received the tainted steroid medication are:
- North Carolina,
- New Hampshire,
- New Jersey,
- New York,
- Rhode Island,
- South Carolina,
- Texas, and
- West Virginia.
Here is a complete list of facilities that received the potentially contaminated drug.
Facilities in Pennsylvania (PA) that received the potentially contaminated steroid medication are Allegheny Pain Management in Altoona, PA and South Hills Pain and Rehabilitation in Jefferson Hills, PA.
On Friday, New Jersey (NJ) officials identified the six health care facilities that dispensed medication that has been associated with this deadly outbreak of fungal meningitis were:
- Central Jersey Orthopedics Specialists in South Plainfield;
- Edison Surgical Center in Edison;
- IF Pain Associates/Isaiah Florence in Teaneck;
- Premier Orthopedics Surgical Associates in Vineland;
- South Jersey Healthcare in Elmer and Vineland, and
- Richard Siegfried of Sparta.
It has been determined that the contaminated steroid drug came from New England Compounding Center in Framingham Massachusetts. In recent years some doctors and clinics have turned compounding centers for their medications instead of major drug companies because they can get the medication at a lower cost. In addition, as drug shortages have become more complex and common, pharmacies are turning to compounding companies to help keep up with supply and demand and all of this is done with little federal oversight. Drugs manufactured by compound drug pharmacies do not go through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated pre-market approval. Instead, oversight and licensing of these pharmacies comes from state health pharmacy boards.
The effects of a company's negligent and/or deceptive actions can potentially cause catastrophic injury, disability and, ultimately, death, as well as undue financial and emotional hardships, for the victim and their family. If you or a loved one developed meningitis as the result of contaminated epidural steroid injections, you and your family may be entitled to compensation for the losses and damages you've suffered.
For over fifty years, the Philadelphia experienced drug injury lawyers of The Beasley Firm have helped patients injured by defective products, and have obtained over $2 billion in settlements and jury verdicts. We can help you understand your legal rights and options. Please feel free to contact us at (215) 866-2424 learn more about how our pharmaceutical error attorneys can help you.