Alaska providers received drugs from pharmacy involved in meningitis outbreak

ANCHORAGE — Health care providers in Alaska have received drugs from the Massachusetts pharmacy behind the deadly outbreak of fungal meningitis, state officials said Tuesday.

Alaska providers have not received any of the implicated injectable steroid produced by the New England Compounding Center that has been linked to the deaths of at least 15 people and illnesses of more than 200 others in other states, said Greg Wilkinson, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. Alaska also has not received two other injectable products from the NECC that are under investigation.

Alaska health officials have received information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, about significant concerns over the sterility of all injectable drugs produced by the Framingham, Mass., pharmacy, he said.

The FDA is advising health providers nationwide to contact patients who have received any injectable drugs produced by NECC after May 21. The FDA’s move is based on “an abundance of caution,” Wilkinson said.

Meningitis is an infection of membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, severe headache, sensitivity to lights and changes in mental status. Anyone experiencing those symptoms should contact their doctor immediately.

For people with no symptoms, no action is needed, Wilkinson said.

Seven health care facilities in Alaska received injectable NECC products.

Anchorage providers are the Alaska Center for Facial Plastic Surgery, Alaska Spine Center, Alaska VA Healthcare System, Alaska Spine Institute Surgery Center, AA Pain Clinic and Alaska Surgery Center. The Surgery Center of Fairbanks is the seventh on the FDA’s list.

State epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin said the FDA’s patient notification advisory stems from an ongoing investigation of NECC. Investigators are looking at two cases of fungal infection that occurred in patients outside Alaska who received injectable NECC products other than the steroid linked to the outbreak.

None of the products in the two cases were sent to Alaska, officials said.

“We want people to be aware of the situation, but not overly concerned,” McLaughlin said.

In early October, the FDA advised providers to not use any NECC products at all. Soon after, the pharmacy announced a recall of all its products.

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