Last updated: July 24. 2013 2:00PM - 135 Views

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Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

Despite a local media report suggestions to the contrary, officials at Southern Ohio Medical Center say the hospital has never used injections of Methylprednisolone Acetate, a steroid that is injected into the spinal cord from New England Compounding Center (NECC). SOMC has used a different product, not associated with the NECC product linked to a national meningitis outbreak. The medication responsible for the recall is a widely distributed steroid used to treat back pain administered by injection.

“We have not used the one linked to the outbreak of the fungal meningitis. We do have product from that company,” Leann Sammons, Vice President of Safety, Risk Management and Insurance at Southern Ohio Medical Center said. “And as soon as the news broke (Oct. 4) we took all of the product from that company out of our supply, even before the FDA issued that instruction to health care facilities. So we were very proactive in how we, as an organization, at SOMC addressed the issue as it was going on. We did not use that specific epidural steroid product here at SOMC. The physician that used the epidural procedure used a different product. I don’t even believe it was from NECC.”

On Oct. 3, 2012, NECC ceased all production and initiated a recall of all methylprednisolone acetate and other drug products prepared for injections in and around the spinal cord (known as intrathecal administration). On Oct. 6, NECC announced a recall of all its products.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) released a statement encouraging all health care providers to follow-up with patients who received any injection-type products from NECC since May 2012. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided states with a list from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of all facilities that purchased NECC products during that time frame. ODH is making the list available online to aid in the outreach to patients at www.odh.ohio.gov. The list includes any provider who bought any NECC product since May 21, 2012, even topical products, which FDA has indicated are low- or no-risk products.

Among those facilities is SOMC and Eye Specialists of Ohio, also located in Portsmouth.

“We had some products (antibiotics) on hand that we had ordered from that company,” Angie Snyder, Office Administrator for Eye Specialists of Ohio, said. “But they were never opened or used.”

“We got an antibiotic from them, but we never used it,” Tim Duffy, Regional Administrator for Eye Specialists of Ohio, said.

Sammons said SOMC took their efforts a step further.

“What we did, because our patients are so important to us, the relationship with them is our priority, and their safety is our priority, we went ahead and contacted those patients who had procedures where they received some type of epidural injection, and let them know what product that had been used, and that they were not affected by the event that was going on with NECC,” Sammons said. “That was the first event just so we could clarify the epidural steroidal injection that resulted in the fungal meningitis patient issues. We never used any NECC product in epidural injections.”

Sammons stated the facility made sure no products from NECC were in its inventory prior to the FDA issuing a broader recall.

“We felt that we had to be proactive and not have any product from that company in our supply,” Sammons said.

The ODH continues to look into the situation.

“We are working with health care providers to reach out to patients, but we need two-way communication,” Dr. Ted Wymyslo, Director at ODH, said. “At this time, ODH does not have a count on the number of patients that received drugs in the expanded recall list. Since this investigation is changing so rapidly, it’s critical that Ohioans who received these injections or solutions be informed and watch closely for any change in how they are feeling.”

SOMC told the Portsmouth Daily Times, no one from any news outlet called them before reporting the story. Dr. Terry Schultz, Director of Eye Specialists of Ohio, said they also had not received a call.

“There was a TV article from a Huntington, West Virginia station, and I think there was a Huntington radio station, that has kind of linked us the steroid injections that are causing the fungal keratitis, that was available from the New England Compoundings,” Schultz said. “We never purchased any steroids from New England Compound. We never bought any of those drugs from them. So I don’t know why we’re linked to that. If they would have called me to begin with, I could have cleared the air before they ran the story.”

Schultz re-iterated what the office staff at the Portsmouth office told the Times, that an antibiotic had been purchased from that company, but it was quarantined once there was an issue.

In a statement, SOMC said, “It is understandable that some SOMC patients may have questions about how these developments affect them, if at all. Any patients in need of additional information are encouraged to contact our Patient Relations department at 740-356-8216.”

Unlike bacterial or viral meningitis, fungal meningitis cannot be spread person-to-person. Ohio currently has seven cases of fungal meningitis (no deaths), all linked to back injections with steroids distributed by NECC. The case numbers for Ohio could change as the CDC adjusts their case definitions and Ohio further evaluates each patient.

Cases in Ohio:

* Crawford County: 40-year-old female * Hamilton County: 65-year-old male * Marion County: 55-year-old female; 45-year-old male; 47-year-old female; 50-year-old female * Morrow County: 39-year-old female

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at flewis@heartlandpublications.com

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