Pharmacist: Meningitis Outbreak From Tainted Drug Not Likely To Affect Oklahoma

Tuesday, October 16th 2012, 5:55 pm
By: Craig Day

The Federal Drug Administration said two more drugs made by the Massachusetts pharmacy behind a deadly meningitis outbreak, are now being investigated.

They believe those new drugs are connected to at least three new infected patients.

The new concern is over a different type of steroid and a solution that was supposed to be sterile to be used in heart surgery.

"This compounding pharmacy made any number of drugs. My fingers are crossed, I hope we've come to the end of the drug story, but we're still worried," said infectious disease expert, Dr. William Schaffner.

The fungal meningitis outbreak has killed 15 people.

At least 233 cases have been reported in 15 states.

Many people in Green Country have questions about the meningitis outbreak from the tainted medication from that compounding pharmacy.

Should people in Oklahoma be concerned?

Sand Springs Pharmacist Josh Pritchard has been watching the situation unfold.

"[It's] not a major concern here in Oklahoma, I think it's mainly been Eastern, Northeastern states," Pritchard said.

Pritchard said few of his customers have shown concern about the outbreak, because Oklahoma isn't one of the 23 states that received the tainted medication.

The only surrounding one is Texas.

"There are safeguards put in place through the manufacturers and the wholesalers, who deal with these medications. Through lot numbers, they're able to track which batch was actually contaminated," Pritchard said.

And where it went.

Since compounding pharmacies that mix injectable drugs aren't as common as your corner drug store, it's normal for Oklahoma pharmacies, doctors' offices and hospitals to order medication from other places nationwide, so long as they meet CDC guidelines.

That explains why the New England medication went to so many states.

"They're pretty strict on their regulations and safeguards and handling procedures," Pritchard said.

The Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy controls and regulates the industry in the state, including outside drug wholesalers who do business in Oklahoma.

The group says it is following the issue closely, and that if the investigation shows the source of the contamination comes from raw chemicals, rather than the pharmacy itself, the board could look at more stringent oversight of that particular chemical and where it originates.

So far, 90 percent of patients in the affected states who received tainted injections have been notified.

"It's a rare, very rare occasion that any of this would occur, but it does happen," Pritchard said.