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No fear of meningitis, local medical centers say

Area pain care providers distance themselves from outbreak concerns

October 11, 2012

Despite some injected medications being linked to a recent outbreak of fungal meningitis, representatives from several local medical centers say it is still safe for pain management patients to move forward with their treatments.

A recent national meningitis outbreak has been linked to the compounded preservative-free agent Methylprednisolone, manufactured by the Framingham, Mass.,-based New England Compounding Center, according to The Associated Press and a spokesperson for Iowa Specialty Hospital, in Clarion.

The drug, which is used in lumbar epidural injections to treat back pain, has sickened 137 people in 10 states, the AP has reported. An additional 13 people have died from the illness.

The drug may have been shipped to as many as 76 medical facilities in 23 states nationwide and 13,000 people may have received a dose through injections.

Locally, no hospitals use the compounding center, which produced the potentially fatal drug, as their distributor.

"We let our patients know in a post we put out on Friday that we do not use that specific drug," said Kim Marker, marketing leader for Iowa Specialty Hospital, formerly Wright Medical Center in Clarion. "At the time, Iowa was not linked to the outbreak and we do not use that particular pharmacy compound."

Dr. Sami Iqbal, a physician with Trinity Regional Medical Center's Pain Management Center, said in a press release "we want to assure our patients they are safe. The product we use is different from the product in the news."

At Humboldt County Memorial Hospital, Chief Executive Officer Jim Atty said the facility's pain clinic does not use compounded drugs and is not affected by the outbreak risk.

"For this very reason, our facility has made it a policy to never use compounding for pain injections," said Atty. "There will always be concerns for this sort of thing. We go direct to the manufacturer where the risks are greatly reduced. From the evidence we saw, it is safer to go direct from the manufacturers."

Officials at Van Diest Medical Center in Webster City also said it does not use the products affected by the outbreak and that it does not purchase any products from that particular manufacturer.

"It is safe for patients to continue on with their treatment," Marker said.



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