Infected patients must receive intravenous drugs in a hospital.
Compounding pharmacies such as the New England Compounding Center combine, mix or alter ingredients to create specific drugs to meet the specific needs of individual patients, according to the FDA. Such customized drugs are frequently required to fill special needs, such as a smaller dose, or the removal of an ingredient that might trigger an allergy in a patient.
Compounding pharmacies historically started out as community-based neighborhood druggists. But over time, the practices of some compounding pharmacies have expanded, sometimes beyond their intended limits, experts explained.
According to the Associated Press, this is not the first time the New England Compounding Center has encountered problems with contaminated injections. In 2007, the company settled a lawsuit that claimed that an 83-year-old man died in 2004 after contracting fatal bacterial meningitis from a shot produced by the compounding center. The pharmacy reached a settlement with the man's widow before the case went to trial, the AP said.
Compounding pharmacies aren't subject to the same FDA oversight as regular drug manufacturers are, and some members of Congress now say the meningitis outbreak highlights the need for more regulatory control.
Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who represents the district that's home to the New England Compounding Center, said he would push for legislation that requires compounding pharmacies that distribute products across state lines to register with the FDA.
The CDC released a list of the approximately 75 health-care facilities that received contaminated product.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about injections for back pain.
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