FAQs: The Meningitis Outbreak

Must-knows about the meningitis outbreak.

Laboratory technician Ruth Rutledge packages cerebrospinal fluid of the three confirmed meningitis cases in Minnesota to send to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for further testing.

Laboratory technician Ruth Rutledge packages cerebrospinal fluid of the three confirmed meningitis cases in Minnesota to send to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for further testing.

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Compounding pharmacies are regulated by state pharmacy boards, the Food and Drug Administration "for the integrity" of certain ingredients, and the Drug Enforcement Administration, according to the group, which says that the industry also has a Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board. It adds that the New England Compounding Center is not an accredited member of that board.

For its part, the FDA says it does not exercise full control over these pharmacies.

"Compounded drugs are not FDA-approved and can pose health risks when they are made using uncontrolled or poor-quality compounding practices," says Sarah Clark-Lynn of the FDA's Office of Public Affairs. "While many pharmacists are well-trained and well-equipped to compound certain medications safely, not all pharmacists have the same level of skills and equipment ... Compounded drugs that are prepared improperly pose potential health risks to the patients who take them. When such compounding occurs on a large scale, more patients are exposed to those risks."

Clark-Lynn adds, however, that "it is important to note that compounded drugs can serve an important public health need if a patient has a particular medical need that cannot be met with an FDA-approved drug."

[See Watch Out for Unproven Anti-Aging Treatments]

Updated on 10/18/12: This version reflects new cases of infection.