Six regional health care facilities are among 164 in Pennsylvania that received medications this summer from the company linked to a recent outbreak of fungal meningitis, according to lists released this week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The outbreak - traced to a steroid from the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts - has infected 317 nationally, including one patient hospitalized in this area, while causing 24 deaths.
Until the release of the list, it
wasn't clear how widespread the distribution was of medications from NECC, which is now shut down. The list shows that more than 3,000 facilities nationwide received NECC medications since mid-May.
In this area, NECC medications went to Allegheny Pain Management - the previously known source of the drug that caused the illness of the one Pennsylvania patient - Blair Orthopedics Associates, Altoona Regional Health System, Mount Nittany Medical Center, UPMC Bedford Memorial and Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center.
Allegheny Pain Management bought 75 5-milliliter doses of injectible 80 mg/ml methylprednisolone acetate on July 11 and 50 doses on Sept. 13, according to one of the FDA lists. The FDA has identified three potentially contaminated lots of 80 mg/ml methylprednisolone acetate as the source of the problems.
Allegheny Pain Management also bought many more medications of various sorts from NECC - a total of 946 doses, according to the list.
Despite repeated calls for comment, including a call on Wednesday, Allegheny Pain Management hasn't spoken to the Mirror since an initial news conference that included assurances that there was no problem - except for a brief and cryptic comment from an administrator about a week ago.
Blair Orthopedics also received injectible methylprednisolone acetate from NECC - 120 doses in all in three shipments - but it was at the 40 mg/ml strength, not the same concentration as the suspect lots.
While asking for comment, the Mirror was directed to an alert on the Blair Orthopedics website, which speaks of the outbreak and the national investigation.
It tells patients "who have a joint injection performed at our practice, we have NOT used any of the three lots of the drug linked to the outbreak. Patients who have received methylprednisolone injections since July should be wary of symptoms including new or worsening headaches, dizziness, nausea and swelling at the injection site."
The alert advises patients with questions to call the Blair Orthopedics office.
Altoona Regional bought many hundreds of doses of medications from NECC, but none of the implicated steroid.
All those have been pulled from patient floors, in accordance with an Oct. 4 FDA advisory that followed a recall of all NECC medications, hospital spokesman Dave Cuzzolina said.
The hospital is in the process of determining what patients received those medications before the recall, and it will inform those who did, Cuzzolina said.
None of those other medications has been implicated so far by the FDA as causing infections so far, Cuzzolina said.
UPMC Bedford Memorial bought 25 doses of an NECC topical anesthetic, the remainder of which it has removed, according to the list and hospital spokesman Jay Knarr.
It hasn't informed patients treated by the anesthetic, because the state isn't requiring such notification, Knarr said. The FDA isn't advising such notification for topicals, either, according to the agency website.
Mount Nittany Medical Center bought 275 doses of medications from NECC, including eye drops that the FDA has issued an advisory about, according to the list and hospital spokeswoman Nochole Monica.
"We have notified patients of the potential risk," she said - repeating the word "potential."
Mount Nittany has sequestered all remaining NECC products, according to FDA guidelines, and followed up with all patients who received any NECC medications, she said.
The hospital also followed up with patients of its pain management center, because - even though they didn't receive NECC products - they might be worried because of the similarity of what they did receive to the implicated drugs.
The hospital has set up a hotline for worried patients and posted a video on its website, she said.
The hospital has decided not to buy any more products from compounding pharmacies, except for one pharmacy that produces one pain management injectible for the hospital in doses customized for individual patients, Monica said.
The hospital will do the rest of its compounding in-house, she said.
Altoona Regional hasn't gone that far, but it's "reviewing the situation," Cuzzolina said.
"There is sound clinical data to support the use of compounding centers," he said. "We are awaiting more information, as well as FDA guidance."