Are Steroid Shots Causing Meningitis?

Posted on Oct 09, 2012

Many people have been getting steroid shots in their back to relieve pain in the past few years. The treatment helps a variety of things including: sciatica, spinal stenosis and pain relief. Sciatica is pain from a slipped or ruptured disc that often goes down the legs. Spinal stenosis is an age-related narrowing of the spine, which is often caused by arthritis, usually located in the neck or back. Doctors also recommend the treatment for pain relief when patients don’t get adequate pain relief from physical therapy or common medicines that reduce inflammation.

How does a steroid shot work?
Doctors use a needle that is about three inches long to inject the drug into the epidural space surrounding the spinal cord. Many times three injections are given over a few weeks. The procedure takes about ten minutes and patients are able to go home afterwards. The shot’s effects usually last for several months and many times the patient returns after a year. However, in 23 states, many patients who received this treatment are being warned to watch for signs of meningitis. A custom mixed steroid solution may have been contaminated by a fungus. Five people have already suffered fatalities and 40 have fallen ill.

Related: Medical Malpractice At A Brockton Hospital In Rhode Island

The use of compounding drugs
Doctors who do these treatments claim they are “extremely” safe when done correctly with sterile drugs. However, many doctors have been using compounding pharmacies. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), pharmacy compounding involves making a new drug for which safety and efficacy have not been demonstrated with the kind of data that FDA requires to approve a new drug. In virtually all cases, FDA regards compounded drugs as unapproved new drugs.

Dr. Michael Drass, of Allegheny Pain Management in Altoona, Pennsylvania, has pulled all the drugs off the shelf that he has gotten from a compound pharmacy and is reevaluating whether or not to continue using medicine from compounding pharmacies on patients. He claims, "I have been doing this for 15 years now, and I’ve done over 50,000 injections over that course of time. I’ve never seen or heard anything like this. It’s a real eye opener for us in the medical practitioner community.”

Why do doctors use compounding pharmacies instead of using places that are FDA approved?
The two main reasons are drug shortages and costs. The compounding pharmacies often have medication that cannot be gotten elsewhere because of drug shortages. They also have cheaper prices than the bigger pharmaceutical companies. However, with the recent outbreak, doctors everywhere are questioning whether or not they should be using compound pharmacies.

How to prevent an accident
What can you do to keep yourself safe from medicine that has been purchased at a compound pharmacy? Simply ask the doctor who is treating you if the medication came from a compounding pharmacy. Make sure you are being treated with a FDA approved drug.

Michael Schafer
The Personal Injury Attorney for Louisville and Kentucky