News & Press: Patient Safety

FDA Statement on Fungal Meningitis Outbreak (10/15/2012)

Monday, October 15, 2012  
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As a result of the ongoing investigation of NECC, a patient with possible meningitis potentially associated with epidural injection of an additional NECC product, triamcinolone acetonide, has been identified through active surveillance and reported to FDA. Triamcinolone acetonide is a type of steroid injectable product made by NECC. The cases of meningitis identified to date have been associated with methylprednisolone acetate, another similar steroid injectable product.

In addition, two transplant patients with Aspergillus fumigatus infection who were administered NECC cardioplegic solution during surgery have been reported. Investigation of these patients is ongoing; and there may be other explanations for their Aspergillus infection. Cardioplegic solution is used to induce cardiac muscle paralysis during open heart surgery to prevent injury to the heart.  

FDA continues to evaluate these reports, and when the agency obtains additional information, it will be promptly relayed to the public. FDA has not confirmed that these three infections were, in fact, caused by an NECC product.

FDA Advice to Healthcare Practitioners
Based on the new information described above, out of an abundance of caution, FDA advises you to follow-up with patients for whom you administered an injectable product, including an ophthalmic drug that is injectable or used in conjunction with eye surgery, or a cardioplegic solution purchased from or produced by NECC after May 21, 2012. FDA does not urge patient follow-up at this time for NECC products of lower risk such as topicals (for example, lotions, creams, eyedrops not used in conjunction with surgery) and suppositories.

You should inform patients who received the NECC products noted above of the symptoms of possible infection and instruct them to contact you or another healthcare provider immediately if they experience any of these symptoms. The signs and symptoms of meningitis include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, photophobia (sensitivity to light) and altered mental status. Symptoms for other possible infections may include fever; swelling, increasing pain, redness, warmth at injection site; visual changes, pain, redness or discharge from the eye; chest pain, or drainage from the surgical site (infection within the chest).

The FDA recognizes that some health care professionals may receive a high volume of calls from patients or be concerned about having to notify many patients as a result of today's announcement. We ask you to use your clinical judgment in deciding which patients are at risk and contact those patients in whatever communications mode you prefer, whether it is email, phone or letter. Face-to-face communication with patients is not necessary.

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