Drugs From Lab Linked to Meningitis Outbreak Given to Patients in Charlottesville

October 25, 2012

The Food and Drug Administration has been testing batches of all of the medications produced at the New England Compounding Center linked to the deadly meningitis outbreak that has, so far, killed 24 people. None of the other drugs have tested positive, but the FDA ordered them to be pulled from the shelves, but not before several of those drugs were given to patients in Charlottesville.

According to a list released by the FDA, four different facilities in the area received shipments from the lab. Officials with the University of Virginia Medical Center say they have ordered three different medications from the NECC for a few years and have never had any problems until now.

"We proactively pulled all of the NECC drugs that we purchased from our shelves and sequestered them," said Rafael Saenz, the administrator for pharmacy services. Saenz says the medications have been administered to approximately 150 patients.

"We have done extensive research into who received these medications and have taken proactive steps by sending letters to the patients involved and we have given them explanations as to where the medications came from and a toll free number they can call if they have any questions," Saenz said.

The three medications purchased by UVa from NECC treat a variety of ailments. Mitomycin is given intravenously to treat stomach and pancreatic cancers. The topical gel Glycerin is used to numb in order to repair lacerations in pediatrics. The third drug, Avastin, is also given intravenously to treat cancers.

Avastin can also be used as an eye injection, which is how it was administered at Augusta Eye Center's Charlottesville branch office on Berkmar Circle. Their patients received a letter saying "There is virtually no risk of meningitis from an eye injection. Even if the drug was contaminate. Serious eye infections can be caused by a fungus however."

Health officials want to stress the medications administered in Charlottesville aren't linked to meningitis. But the lab, NECC, where they are made has been shut down for substandard equipment and unsanitary equipment.

Monticello Community Surgery Center received at least nine shipments as recently as October 1, 2012. Dr. William Grant says the center has pulled all medications from NECC from its shelves and is in the process of notifying patients.

The last name on the FDA's list isn't a health care facility, it's a hair salon. Moxie Medical Spa on Preston Avenue received one shipment of anesthetic cream in August. Officials with Moxie say it was never opened because the spa no longer offers procedures like fillers or botox that would require it.

"We don't have that kind of equipment so we don't use it," said Kathy Knight, the aesthetician at the spa.

The FDA is recommending health care professionals notify patients who may have come into contact with drugs produced at the NECC lab.

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