2 local clinics might have received fungus-tainted meds
A fungus-tainted steroid medicine that has killed five people nationwide and affected dozens of others may have crept into two local pain clinics.
Patients of Intervene MD in North Charleston and Mount Pleasant have received calls from state health officials and the clinics to discuss their health and symptoms of meningitis.
The clinics recently received a batch of drugs used for steroid shots that have been linked to a deadly meningitis outbreak.
“Like most people, we were shocked and concerned about this and immediately contacted the patients who have been affected,” Dr. Todd Joye of Intervene MD told The Post and Courier.
Of the 189 patients who have been given spinal steroid injections from the clinics since July, the InterveneMD clinics had notified 177 of them by Friday afternoon, according to Jim Beasley, spokesman for S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Beasley said the clinics had made all the notifications, though DHEC stood ready to assist with notifications. The clinics were contacting everyone who had the procedure since July 1, Beasley said. Of all the people who have been notified, none had reported any symptoms he said.
Joye and Dr. Jeffrey Folk of Intervene MD also sent a statement that they were contacted Sept. 21 by DHEC to inform them that they had received suspect medicines from lots produced between July 31 and Sept. 16.
They removed all vials of the medication from use and returned them to the manufacturer. The patients they haven’t been able to reach by repeated phone calls have been sent letters.
“It is a relief that none of our patients are showing any signs or symptoms of meningitis,” the statement read. “Two — at our urging — have gone to the emergency room for further examination. Tests determined that they do not have meningitis.
“We have been and continue to be available to speak with our patients. We invite them to phone us with any questions, issues or anxiety. We are providing medical counseling and following all CDC recommendations.”
Intervene MD’s clinics are at 1341 Old Georgetown Road in Mount Pleasant and 9231 Medical Plaza Drive in North Charleston.
DHEC, along with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, have been investigating the meningitis cases involving patients treated with epidural steroid injections at outpatient surgical centers and pain-management clinics. Many of those patients have suffered strokes.
On Sept. 21, the Tennessee Department of Health was notified that a patient had contracted meningitis following an epidural injection at a Tennessee surgical center, according to DHEC.
The meningitis outbreak has risen to 47 cases in seven states so far, with five deaths.
Tennessee’s cases now total 29; Virginia, six; Michigan, four; Indiana, three; two each in Maryland and Florida; and one in North Carolina.
Investigators have focused on a steroid custom-made by a specialty pharmacy, New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass. Health inspectors found fungus in at least one sealed vial of the steroid at the company’s facility this week.
The pharmacy recalled more than 17,000 single-dose vials of the steroid, methylprednisolone acetate. Shipments had gone to about 75 clinics in 23 states, with Intervene MD being South Carolina’s only reported recipient.
DHEC issued a health advisory Thursday for medical providers to be aware of patients who have had an epidural injection since July and a change in neurological function.
Infected patients have shown symptoms about one to four weeks after their injection. Those symptoms included fever, new or worsening headache, nausea, and new neurological deficit, consistent with deep brain stroke, according to DHEC. Some of these patients’ symptoms were mild.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. The type of fungal meningitis involved is not contagious, like the more common forms. It is treated with high-dose antifungal medications, usually given intravenously in a hospital.
DHEC officials said residents don’t need to worry unless they have heard from the clinic or their agency.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because of incorrect information provided to The Post and Courier, earlier versions of this story did not accurately describe the manner in which patients affected by the recall were contacted. The InterveneMD clinics contacted all of the patients.