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Tainted steroids + meningitis outbreak = wrongful death lawsuits

Many Missouri residents no doubt remember the big story that broke last summer that is still a major concern for doctors, clinicians and pharmacists today. When a person takes a drug that is intended to ease their pain and instead is further harmed there will be consequences. We are referring to the deadly outbreak of fungal meningitis that spread across the country after a compounding pharmacy shipped thousands of steroid shots tainted with fungus.

To date there have been 39 known deaths and more than 600 sickened patients directly attributed to the defective drugs shipped by the New England Compounding Center. More deaths are sure to occur but the real number of deaths caused by these tainted drugs may not ever be fully known. The reason is that because the outbreak started spreading very slowly not all deaths that have occurred have been directly linked to the tainted steroid shots.

The deadly outbreak is one of the worst in the annals of deaths related to defective drugs. In 1937, more than 100 people were killed, mostly children, after being administered an untested mixture of drugs designed to treat streptococcal infections. That incidence lead to such outrage that a year later Congress granted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration greater authority to regulate medications. Now, the meningitis tragedy has triggered even more outrage over the lack of federal oversight of compounding pharmacies.

More than 17,000 vials of tainted steroids were shipped out from a compounding pharmacy known for years to have problems with the sterility and preparations of its products. The FDA has said in numerous reports that compounding pharmacies are regulated by individual state boards and not the FDA, perhaps that should change. Others claim the FDA had authority and knew about the problems at this particular pharmacy and dropped the ball.

A number of wrongful death lawsuits have been filed over the tainted steroids and the defendants involved may be more than just the compounding pharmacy that produced and shipped the drugs to hospitals and clinics around the country. Personal injury and wrongful death statutes vary from state to state and the named defendants may also vary depending on where the suit is filed. The courts could also consider combining the various lawsuits into a class-action case as well.

Source: The Boston Globe, “A wish for relief, a tainted drug, a tragic outcome,” Patricia Wen, Dec. 30, 2012

Our St. Louis, Missouri, personal injury law firm handles a wide array of dangerous and defective drug claims similar to the issues discussed above.


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