Health Team

80 NC clinics buy from company linked to meningitis scare

Posted October 24, 2012
Updated October 25, 2012

— Eighty healthcare facilities in North Carolina have been identified as customers of a Massachusetts pharmacy linked to a nationwide meningitis outbreak, according to a list of more than 3,000 clinics made public Wednesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

About 20 percent of the clinics in North Carolina are in the greater Triangle area, including seven in Durham, three in Raleigh, two in Roanoke Rapids and one each in Oxford, Southern Pines, Pinehurst and Wilson.

The outbreak of fungal meningitis, an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, has sickened 317 people, including 24 who have died, in 17 states, including North Carolina.

Health officials say the outbreak has to do with a steroid made by New England Compounding Company, which makes custom-mix solutions in doses or forms generally not commercially available.

Elwina Shaw, 77, of Denton, died Friday at High Point Regional Health System, where she spent nearly four weeks being treated for meningitis that, her family said, likely came from a steroid injection for back pain she received in August.

She is the only person in North Carolina to die from meningitis, but the FDA wants all customers of NECC to notify patients about any products that came from the pharmacy between May and October.

"They are approaching this with what they call an 'abundance of caution,' said Jay Campbell, executive director of the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy. "They have not identified any infections associated with any NECC product other than the initially recalled steroid lot."

State health officials say patients associated with the affected clinics should call their doctors if they have concerns and if they are not feeling well, to let their health providers know.

"I think it would be human nature to be concerned," Campbell said. "I certainly would be, but I think (patients) should, to the maximum extent possible, approach it with a calm frame of mind."

NECC, meanwhile, is under investigation by the state of Massachusetts and the federal government.

State inspectors found a number of problems at the company's facility during a preliminary investigation, including license violations and "several health and safety deficiencies."

The state has moved to permanently revoke the company's operating license, as well as the licenses of its top three pharmacists.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • Diva RN Oct 29, 2012

    I was terrified when I got my spinal injection back in February or March. Something about a needle in my back just freaks me right out. Couldn't watch epidurals or spinal taps in nursing school, either. Only reason I did it was so that it could be said that I exhausted every option before surgery. I was sweating so much I stuck to the table and my respirations were in the 30's. I thought they would at least give me some IV sedative but no, had to be wide awake. And to top it all off, it didn't help, AT ALL, other than being numb from the lidocaine for a few hours. So suffice it to say that after this scare, that is going on my "never again" list.

  • lizzz38 Oct 26, 2012

    davisgw- We would've been up front with our patients. We didn't use any of their products, but if we had, ours would've known. However, there's no reason to duscuss with new pts. about potentially tainted meds. they used in the past. The point is that they didn't use anything on YOU so you don't need to worry or feel like they've pulled one over on you.

  • davisgw Oct 25, 2012

    lizz38:My point was that neither clinic gave any acknowledgement that they had ever used NECC products. They just kept quiet and I assume the public release of purchasers caught them off guard. Thier marketing department missed the boat on this one.

  • lizzz38 Oct 25, 2012

    davisgw, If you had surgery on Mon., I guarantee you that you have no cause for concern. Any meds. distributed by NECC were recalled and wouldn't have been used. What they should've done in that office, if they didn't, was to assure you that they weren't using any products from NECC. We never did and have been very much aware of our patients' concerns. Don't question the integrity of your doctor's office. Rest assured that they are aware of the dangers of NECC drugs. The FDA recalled them all. If you're still upset, call them and talk to them!

  • davisgw Oct 25, 2012

    I had surgery at carolina eye in Pinehurst on Manday and was very upset on Tuesday when the list was released to see them listed. I would rather they had the integrity to tell me in advance themselves and detailed what safeguard measures they had taken. No one in the clinic from the surgeon to the receptionest had the integerity to tell the patients. I feel let down by Carolina Eye Associates and the surgery clinic.

  • lizzz38 Oct 25, 2012

    Now that I've looked at the extensive 73 page list of clinics who've received products from this pharmacy, it's clear that what they were doing was nothing like compounding. They were mass-producing and apparently under unsanitary conditions. As a healthcare worker who assists with injections on a daily basis, I really feel for all these trusting patients who went to upstanding facilites for treatment, never thinking that their lives were in danger. I pray daily that this will not continue to take victims and that all the remaining ill patients involved will recover. It makes one question every aspect of the care they get. Thankfully, we weren't one of NC's 80 clinics who used meds. from NECC!

  • corey3rd Oct 25, 2012

    Remember that in many states now, you aren't allowed to sue a company that kills you with their product thanks to ALEC.

  • Grand Union Oct 25, 2012

    "same ole illegal workers that have somanelly or E Coli"

    Its not from the workers its from the animal manure used as fertiliser. If properly washed its not a problem.

  • Grand Union Oct 25, 2012

    Anyone now think we have sufficient regulation and an adequately resourced FDA?

  • Uhavenoclu Oct 25, 2012

    So many Pharmacies were selling Tylenol during the scare. Many produce stores sell vegetables from the same ole illegal workers that have somanelly or E Coli.and people still live their lives by politics and religion and those are the biggest causes of hate anger violence war and death in the world. But alas people walk around doomy and gloomy looking for better lives and salvation when YOU are your own savior.