NJ Meningitis Outbreak Lawsuits Filed

TWO N.J. PATIENTS FILE COMPLAINTS ASSERTING LIABILITY BY NEW ENGLAND PHARMACY LINKED TO MENINGITIS OUTBREAK

15 deaths among more than 200 cases nationwide in tainted steroid injection outbreak

Bridgeton, New Jersey (October 16, 2012) – Two New Jersey residents who received steroid injections to relieve chronic pain are asserting in separate Complaints filed today that a Massachusetts-based pharmacy is responsible for exposing them to potentially deadly fungal meningitis. The Federal government is reporting 15 deaths to date among the approximately 14,000 patients in 23 states, including at least 600 in New Jersey, who received the contaminated injections that were administered from hospitals to community pain treatment centers beginning in May 2012.

Michael Barrett, Esq. of Saltz, Mongeluzzi & Bendesky, P.C.,filed the lawsuits on behalf of Jennifer Marko, 45, and Brian Pennington, 45, in which each alleges that the New England Compounding Center (NECC) pharmacy produced the fungus-laced drug by failing to follow long established, standard safety practices for a compounding pharmacy.

According to the Complaints, Ms. Marko received her injection on September 19, 2012, at Premier Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Associates of Southern New Jersey, LLC, while Mr. Pennington’s injection was given at the same medical practice in Vineland, N.J., on September 10, 2012.

“Like thousands of others, Ms. Marko and Mr. Pennington relied upon NECC. Now, they are fearful of contracting fungal meningitis. They fear for their lives,” said Mr. Barrett following the filings in Superior Court of New Jersey, Cumberland County.

The steroid compound produced by NECC is methylprednisolone acetate, often used to treat chronic back or joint pain. It was tainted with a common fungus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The drug was widely prescribed for patients suffering back or joint pain, particularly in knees and shoulders. The rare but not contagious form of fungal meningitis (unlike bacterial meningitis) is inflammation of the lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

CDC has reported that infected patients have developed a variety of symptoms approximately one to four weeks following their injection. Symptoms include fever, new or worsening headache, nausea, and “new neurological deficit” [consistent with deep brain stroke]. CDC recalled the contaminated NECC batch on September 26, 2012.

According to published reports, the New England Compounding Center has previously been investigated for contaminated injections. In 2007, the company settled a lawsuit that claimed that an 83-year-old man died in 2004 after contracting fatal bacterial meningitis from an injection produced and prepared in its Framingham facility. The case was settled prior to going to trial.

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