Sen. Lamar Alexander seeks answers on meningitis outbreak

Posted on October 25, 2012

Although the end may be in sight for an outbreak of fungal meningitis, Sen. Lamar Alexander is joining with his Senate colleagues to request any information that could provide answers as to how contaminated steroid injections could have been packaged and distributed across the country by a Massachusetts compounding center.

The outbreak has infected at least 70 Tennesseans, killing nine. As of Thursday, 328 total cases had been reported, with 24 deaths nationwide.

In a news release, Alexander, a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said that compounding agencies such as the one linked to the outbreak would likely be in need of clearer regulatory supervision in the months following investigations on the matter.

"This is a tragic situation that should have never happened," Alexander said. "It is clear that compounding pharmacies need clearer regulatory supervision. Once the investigations are complete, we will do what needs to be done to try to make sure something like this never happens again."

A letter signed by Alexander and 20 senators from both political parties was sent to the FDA, the Massachusetts Board of Registration and owners of the New England Compounding Center. In it, the senators requested documents and information regarding complaints, adverse event reports and any written procedures for addressing complaints.

According to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three lots of contaminated, preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate—a product used in steroid injections—were distributed to 23 states, exposing 14,000 patients since May 21. The drugs were recalled Sept. 26.

Because of the recall, the CDC has estimated that the highest risk for infections will come to a close in early November. Tennessee recently established a health hotline for people concerned about the outbreak.

The number is 1-855-CRISIS-1 or 1-855-274-7471.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Fungal meningitis is a form of meningitis that is caused by a fungal infection.