The Forsyth Street Orthopaedic Ambulatory Surgery Center received steroids produced by New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., and has been alerting patients who received the injections. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration found contamination this week in a sealed vial of the steroid at the drug company. Tests are under way to determine if it is the same fungus blamed in the outbreak.
So far, none of the patients treated in Macon have developed fungal meningitis, though it can take weeks for symptoms to develop, said Dr. J. Patrick O’Neal, director of Georgia’s division of health protection.
Of the 160 patients who had been contacted by mid-morning Friday, six complained of possible meningitis symptoms, primarily headaches, and were told to see their doctors as a precaution, O’Neal said. Those who complained of headaches had experienced them before getting the suspect injections.
“The likelihood of any of those cases being confirmed is not real strong, but obviously we don’t want to take any chances,” O’Neal said.
The steroid injections benefit people suffering from chronic back pain who cannot or do not want surgery to treat their condition and have not responded to other conventional treatments, such as physical therapy or anti-inflammatory drugs, said Dr. Chuck Richardson, a founding partner at the Macon center. It has stopped using all drugs produced by New England Compounding Center. Richardson said he’s treated about 800 patients annually for three years with the injections. No one has experienced a drug-related complication.
“It helps a lot of people who would not otherwise be helped,” Richardson said.