Steroid Meningitis Lawsuits
In March 2013, Traci Maccoux of Brooklyn filed a lawsuit against a pain clinic called Medical Advanced Pain Specialists. Maccoux claims that the clinic was negligent in administering contaminated steroids. She was hospitalized for 10 days after developing steroid meningitis. Since developing the condition, she was unable to work or drive and was forced to drop out of school. Her medical bills total more than $110,000.
Patients who developed steroid meningitis from a steroid injection in 2012 may be eligible to receive financial compensation. Compensation can help to cover medical bills, lost wages from missed work, pain, and suffering. Those who wish to file a claim should speak with an experience attorney to discuss legal options.
In 2012, the United States experienced an outbreak of fungal meningitis resulting from contaminated steroid injections. The preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate (MPA) steroid injections were traced back to the New England Compounding Center (NECC). After thorough testing, 3 preservative-free MPA steroid injection lots were recalled by the NECC on September 26, 2012.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supplied a list of healthcare facilities that may have used the contaminated steroid injections. A total of 23 states and over 75 medical facilities were affected. If patients received a dose of the contaminated MPA steroid injections, they became susceptible to fungal meningitis. Fungal meningitis is dangerous, but not contagious. Patients also experienced localized infections, including spinal or paraspinal infections, knee infections, shoulder infections, and ankle infections.
Steroid Meningitis Outbreak
There are now more than 730 cases of illness from the contaminated steroid injections. As of March 2013, there were 51 reported deaths from the steroid contamination. The CDC worked with state health departments to estimate that roughly 14,000 patients were likely injected with the contaminated steroid and may be at risk of developing the steroid meningitis. However, it is important to realize fungal meningitis can be slow to develop.
Patients should seek immediate healthcare if they received a steroid injection after May 21, 2012 and display any of the following symptoms:
- Sensitivity to light
- Slurred speech
- New, worsening headache or stiff neck
- New numbness or weakness in any part of the body
- Redness, swelling, or increased pain at or near steroid injection site
Steroid Meningitis Litigation
Compounding pharmacies are not subject to the same Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scrutiny as standard drug manufacturing companies. Compounding pharmacies, such as the NECC, are classified as specialty pharmacies. These companies alter, combine, and mix various ingredients to create prescription drugs for individual use. Patients with specific allergies or other personal needs are able to get customized prescriptions. Due to the individual and customized nature of the drugs, compounding pharmacies typically make smaller lots of drugs at a time.
There is an outcry from the public for better regulation of compounding pharmacies, such as the NECC. When FDA investigators visited the NECC facilities, they discovered unidentified “greenish-black” materials in several vials of the injectable MPA steroid. This confirmed suspicions that the MPA steroids from NECC were contaminated. Furthermore, the contaminated vials were merely a portion of numerous health violations identified during the inspection.
Steroid Meningitis Class Action Lawsuit
On October 16, 2012, Robert and Brenda Bensale filed a steroid meningitis lawsuit against the NECC. In their steroid meningitis lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim personal injuries, emotional distress, medical expenses, and other punitive damages as a result of Brenda Bensale’s exposure to the contaminated steroid injections. The Bensales hoped for coordination of all steroid meningitis lawsuits against the NECC, into a class action lawsuit. The couple believed that consolidation into multidistrict litigation (MDL) would promote orderly, timely proceedings and allow for consistent rulings.
Consolidation of NECC Fungal Meningitis Cases
While the NECC supported potential consolidation of the steroid meningitis lawsuits, the compounding pharmacy did motion to put fungal meningitis lawsuits on stay until the next year. In November 2012, Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV denied the NECC’s motion for a stay until 2013. Judge Saylor then proceeded to order the consolidation of Massachusetts steroid meningitis lawsuits.
Plaintiffs of federally-filed steroid meningitis lawsuits motioned to expedite consolidation due to fears of the NECC filing for bankruptcy. In late November 2012, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) refused to expedite the steroid meningitis lawsuits’ consolidation. By February 2013, the JPML transferred all federal steroid meningitis lawsuits to MDL in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
Three batches of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate (MPA) steroid injections from the New England Compounding Center (NECC) were found to be contaminated. These three lots of MPA steroid injections were used by approximately 14,000 patients across the United States prior to the steroid injection recall in September of 2012. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned patients and doctors that the contaminated steroid injections were causing a fungal meningitis outbreak.
What is Steroid Meningitis?
Many people are referring to this fungal meningitis outbreak as “steroid meningitis.” This is because the fungal meningitis originated in the steroid injections from the NECC. However, fungal meningitis is the medical name for these cases of steroid meningitis. Fungal meningitis is not contagious, but the fungus that caused the steroid meningitis outbreak can survive on its own for long periods of time.
Fungal meningitis may be caused by several species of fungi, including:
- Histoplasma capsulatum
- Coccidioides immitis
- Cryptococcus neoformans
- Blastomyces dermatitidis
- Certain types of candida species
It is extremely rare for a person with a normal immune system to succumb to fungal meningitis. The outbreak of steroid meningitis in the United States in 2012 was the result of contamination with a brown-black mold known as Exserohilum rostratum. Cases resulting from the Cryptococcus neoformans fungus are the most common type of fungal meningitis. In Africa, cryptococcal meningitis causes roughly 20- to 25-percent of deaths among AIDS/HIV patients.
Steroid Meningitis Symptoms
The term meningitis refers to inflammation and swelling of the meninges, which are the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. In most cases, meningitis is a reaction to a bacterial or viral infection. However, certain types of cancer or prescription drugs can cause meningitis as well. Meningitis may appear as a serious side effect of certain prescription drugs, or it may appear as a result of a contaminated medication.
Fungal meningitis differs from viral or bacterial meningitis. The symptoms of fungal meningitis are very slow to develop. It can take weeks to months for fungal meningitis side effects to fully appear. In contrast, bacterial meningitis can take a patient’s life in a matter of days. Viral meningitis can develop within a few hours, but it can remain dormant for years. Although it some patients have spontaneously recovered, viral meningitis doesn’t react well to medication. It is typically dealt with on a management bases due to the lack of effective medication.
Early Signs of Fungal Meningitis
Identifying the following warning signs of fungal meningitis can prevent severe neurological damage and death:
- Disorientation, confusion, or any significantly altered mental status
- Decreased level of consciousness
- Slurred speech
- Rapid heartbeat
- Stiff neck
- Photophobia, or an increased sensitivity to light
- Feeling of being generally sick, or “feeling very badly”
Having an extremely stiff neck is a trademark symptom of meningitis due to the inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. Treatment of fungal meningitis requires identification of the exact fungus that caused it. Then, fungal meningitis can be treated with antifungal medication. If a doctor suspects bacterial meningitis, he or she will likely begin empiric antibiotic treatment immediately. This is due to the fast progression of bacterial meningitis.
Steroid Meningitis Side Effects
Cases of steroid meningitis, or fungal meningitis, have varying rates of recovery. Certain factors, such as age, sex, and immune system sensitivity, can affect whether or not a patient fully recovers from fungal meningitis. Approximately 14-percent of fungal meningitis survivors experience hearing loss. Roughly 10-percent of surviving fungal meningitis patients endures permanent cognitive impairment.
Side effects and health complications that occur as the result of fungal meningitis include:
- Limited loss of hearing, or complete deafness
- Decreased intellectual abilities, due to neurological damage
- Behavioral changes and difficulties
- Learning disabilities
Notwithstanding claims relating to this product, the drug/medical device remains approved by the U.S. FDA.