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Posted October 22, 2012 | comments Leave a comment

Valley Health removes NECC products

Company linked to recent fungal meningitis outbreak

By Kim Walter

After a total product recall from the New England Compound Center, all Valley Health facilities have removed the company's products and expanded its notification to individuals exposed to certain injections.

Earlier this month, initial cases of fungal meningitis were tied to the company's methylprednisolone acetate, a steroid injection for back pain. Health care providers in only two locations in Virginia -- Roanoke and Montgomery counties -- gave that medication to patients. As of today, the Centers for Disease Control reports there have been 297 illnesses, including three joint infections, and 23 deaths in 16 states related to the outbreak of fungal meningitis linked to the NECC steroid shots. There have been two deaths reported in Virginia.

While Valley Health did not purchase or provide this particular product to patients, roughly 5,000 Winchester Medical Center patients did receive ketorolac, a non-opiate injectable pain medication, between June 1 and August 31 of this year.

NECC, along with other companies, provided the medication.

Valley Health's Medication Safety Manager Deb Saine said only 400 of the 5,000 patients received the product made by NECC, but there is no way of distinguishing which individuals received a certain brand.

"It's important to note that the ketorolac has not been tied to the meningitis outbreaks, or anything else," she said.

Valley Health, following advice from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control, is sending a letter to all patients who received injectable NECC products after May 21, 2012. The company also has announced other steps to address patient concerns.

A hotline - 540-536-3236 - has recently been established for patient concerns or questions. Saine said it will remain available until the CDC and FDA have completed their investigation. Additionally, physician practices have received the patient letter and list of notified patients.

"Patients who received these drugs in this limited timeframe are being advised to remain alert to potential symptoms of infection, and to contact their primary care provider or go to the nearest Emergency Department or Urgent Care facility if they are experiencing high fever, chest pain or other serious symptoms associated with this infection," states a release provided by Valley Health.

Saine said NECC is no longer operating and has surrendered its license to compound and provide products. Valley Health used about 10 different products from the NECC.

"It does pose a bit of a challenge, with all the national shortages of certain medications, and we're having to compound some of our own products," she said.

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com

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