October 18, 2012 — Another medication from New England Compounding Center has been linked to a possible case of fungal meningitis. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning that triamcinolone acetonide, a type of injectable steroid shot, could potentially cause infection if it is contaminated with fungus. To date, 257 people have been infected with fungus from contaminated medicines from NECC. Of these, 20 have died. Health officials are scrambling to contact tens of thousands of people who have been exposed to the potentially contaminated medications.
NECC recalled all of their medications on October 6. On October 15, the FDA issued the following statement in regard to the triamcinolone acetonide infection:
“One patient, identified through active surveillance, is under investigation for possible meningitis potentially associated with epidural injection of an additional NECC product, triamcinolone acetonide. Triamcinolone acetonide is a type of steroid injectable product made by NECC. FDA-approved triamcinolone acetonide is approved for intra-articular (within a joint) or soft tissue injection. The cases of meningitis identified to date have all been associated with methylprednisolone acetate, another similar steroid injectable product.”
Before this case was identified, the only products linked to illnesses were epidural steroid injections (methylprednisolone acetate) which are commonly used to treat back pain and neck pain. The products were sold without preservatives, so sterility is vital. If the products are contaminated with fungus, the spores could be injected directly into a patient’s central nervous system and cause a life-threatening infection.
In addition to methylprednisolone acetate and triamcinolone acetonide, the FDA has also warned about possible fungal infections linked to opthalmic medications (used during eye surgery) and cardioplegic solutions (used to paralyze the heart during open heart surgery).
Today, the FDA announced that they found the fungus, Exserohilum rostratum, in unopened vials of medication from NECC. The fungus has also been isolated from patients with fungal meningitis.
Triamcinolone acetonide is an injectable corticosteroid medication that is used to reduce inflammation. It has a wide variety of uses, including controlling allergies, certain cancers, intestinal disorders, and more. There is also a brand-name version of this product that is used during eye surgery.