Thousands in area notified as precaution about drugs from firm linked to meningitis
Thousands of patients are being notified this week by hospitals and medical offices in central Illinois that they received injectable drugs purchased from the same compounding pharmacy linked to the multi-state fungal meningitis outbreak.
Only one product — a steroid injectable drug used for back and neck pain — made by New England Compounding Center has been associated with the fatal outbreak to date.
Patients are now being notified about other NECC drugs they received, as a precaution.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week advised medical providers to inform patients who received any injectable drugs from NECC after May 21, due to a concern about possible contamination.
On an updated FDA list of providers that purchased products from NECC are several area hospitals, among them Urbana's Provena Covenant Medical Center and Carle Foundation Hospital, Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center in Mattoon, Decatur Memorial Hospital, St. Mary's Hospital in Decatur, Advocate BroMenn Regional Medical Center in Normal and Memorial Medical Center in Springfield.
Provena Covenant is sending out letters to patients who may have received injections of any of four products the hospital purchased from NECC, Covenant spokeswoman Crystal Senesac said. The number of patients was still being determined Thursday, she said.
Those products included the surgical dye sulphan blue, the pain medication nalbuphine, potassium chloride used for potassium replacement and methacholine used for pulmonary function testing.
Carle Physician Group notified 190 of its patients earlier this week who had received eye injections with another NECC product, Avastin, which was used to treat a form of age-related macular degeneration.
In its letter, Carle alerted patients about signs of a fungal infection due to the eye injections — fever, increasing pain, redness and discharge — but as of Thursday hadn't had any patients reporting symptoms, Carle spokesman Sean Williams said.
Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center, Mattoon, also purchased the pain medication nalbuphine from NECC and has sent letters to 290 patients who were injected with that medication, said hospital spokeswoman Patty Peterson.
It was used for laboring mothers in the delivery room and to relieve patients coming to the emergency room with migraine headaches, she said.
Memorial Medical Center in Springfield says it purchased 12 products, nine of them injectables, and will be notifying about 2,500 patients at that hospital and its sister hospital, Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital in Lincoln.
Among the drugs purchased were common pain, nausea and resuscitation medications, said the hospital's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rajesh Govindaiah.
Memorial Medical Center's letters are expected to go out in the mail Friday, he said.
Hospitals and other medical providers order drugs they need from compounding pharmacies such as NECC to fill manufacturing gaps, and Govindaiah projects that gap will only grow wider now.
"Here's the thing," he said. "These compounding pharmacies were taking care of hundreds of hospitals. Now we've taken a little bit of it and there's no reserve."
On Oct. 6, NECC recalled all products produced at its Framingham, Mass., facility.
Not only that, Govindaiah says, a NECC sister company, Ameridose that supplied a lot of pain medications to his hospital, is closed and not expected to reopen until Nov. 5.
Memorial Medical Center has made adjustments to carefully use the medications it has — and hasn't run out of anything — but is experiencing some difficulties getting some medications, he said.
"It just makes this very challenging to deal with." Govindaiah added.
Dr. James Hilderbrandt, Sarah Bush Lincoln's vice president of medical affairs, says keeping needed drugs in supply has been a growing challenge for his hospital and others.
"We are all at the whim of the pharmaceutical industry," he said.
How about ordering from other compounding pharmacies?
Govindaiah says they're being inundated with calls, have clamped down on new business, and he doesn't blame them given the additional scrutiny they face.
"The other compounding pharmacies won't even return our calls," he said.
The outbreak linked to the NECC steroid injections has grown to 328 infection cases and 24 deaths in 18 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Other area hospitals notifying patients:
— Decatur Memorial Hospital says it's sending letters to 29 patients who received an NECC drug, but didn't respond to a question about which product the hospital purchased from NECC, only to stress it wasn't the one involved in the fungal meningitis outbreak.
— St. Mary's Hospital, Decatur, is notifying two patients who received an NECC labor and delivery drug, hospital spokesman Brian Reardon said.
Central Illinois medical providers that purchased pharmaceuticals from New England Compounding Center since May 21
Advocate BroMenn Regional Medical Center, Normal
Carle Foundation Hospital, Urbana
Cosmetic Plastic Surgery, Savoy
Decatur Memorial Hospital, Decatur
Eye Surgical Associates, Bloomington
Illinois Retina Center, Springfield
Memorial Medical Center, Springfield
OSF Eastland Pharmacy, Bloomington
Pana Community Hospital, Pana
Prairie Surgery Center, Springfield
Provena Covenant Medical Center, Urbana
Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center, Mattoon
Springfield Eye Consultants, PC, Springfield
St. Mary's Hospital Pharmacy, Decatur
The Musculoskeletal Center, Savoy
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration