Antidote: Compounding Pharmacies

Share this article:
Marc Siegel, MD
Marc Siegel, MD

Fungi are everywhere, but one place they are not supposed to be is inside our medications. So it is very concerning that we are in the midst of a fungal meningitis outbreak emanating from the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts.

There are over 7,500 compounding pharmacies in the US, and most do good work, taking medicines produced by a manufacturer and packaging it for public consumption, often at a reduced cost. In this case, NECC contaminated a steroid injection with two fungi, and over 14,000 patients who got back injections are at risk of infection. At the time of this writing, close to 300 have developed meningitis (an infection of the lining of the brain); 23 have died.

As always in a health scare, fear is spreading faster than the illness, although this kind of meningitis is not contagious and you can only get it by being exposed to the contaminated product.

Though FDA issued warnings to NECC in 2004, the agency is not always directly involved with overseeing sterilization at the level of the compounding pharmacy, leaving this type of oversight to state health departments. Since the meningitis outbreak began, lawmakers have been calling for stricter laws and federal oversight of these “middlemen” pharmacies.

Many patients receive shots for back pain unnecessarily. Though the fear of meningitis is far greater than the actual risk in part because of media hype and hysteria, nevertheless, the meningitis scare can lead to a healthy discussion about whether a patient really needs a shot for back pain or not.

Marc Siegel, MD, is an internist and professor of medicine at New York University and the author of False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear
Share this article:
You must be a registered member of MMM to post a comment.
close

Next Article in Features

Email Newsletters

MM&M EBOOK: PATIENT ACCESS

Patient access to pharmaceuticals is a tale of two worlds—affordability has improved for the majority, while the minority is hampered by cost, distribution and red tape. To provide marketers with a well-rounded perspective, MM&M presents this e-book chock full of key insights. Click here to access it.

More in Features

Is your marketing strategy stuck in 2005?

Is your marketing strategy stuck in 2005?

It is not enough to just have a killer black book or Rolodex. The market needs agile, swift marketing

Is guidance stifling social media?

Recent FDA draft guidance was meant to help companies create FDA-compliant tweets and handle third-party misinformation on the web. What other obstacles lie in the path of effective social media use?

FDA social media guides draw flak

FDA social media guides draw flak

Two FDA guidance documents on how health product manufacturers may participate in social media have drawn criticism from industry and consumer groups.