Many people with serious neck and back injuries from work or car accidents now have to worry about the risk of meningitis if they received a steroid injection to try to manage their pain.

If you use epidural shots to manage neck and back pain - make sure you read this.

Virginia and Maryland have both been hit by the recent meningitis outbreak, with 41 infections in Virginia and 17 in Maryland. Unfortunately both Virginia and Maryland are among the 6 states who have suffered deaths due to the meningitis outbreak; Virginia’s current death toll is two while Maryland has had one death.

The meningitis outbreak, apparently due to contaminated steroid shots or epidural injections reflects a greater problem in the medical industry – unregulated compound pharmacies.

This is not the first time the FDA is hearing about this problem. According to a recent CNN article, the Government Accountability Office testified that the FDA knew of over 200 adverse events associated with drugs from compounding pharmacies since 1990.

At this time, the FDA does not hold authority over compounding companies until an incident occurs. According to FDA officials, they have been fighting to change this for over 20 years. Compounding pharmacies are currently regulated by individual state health departments, who clearly are not providing enough oversight.

In response to this problem, at least two policymakers are introducing bills to strengthen the FDA’s regulation of compounding pharmacies.

As reported by another CNN article, Representative Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts, stated “we need to update and strengthen the rules that govern [compounding pharmaceuticals]…” Representative Markey also expressed his interest in ensuring that the “FDA has the authority it needs to oversee these pharmacies and protect patients.”

Similarly, Representative Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut, said “this outbreak and the corresponding recall of products… expose dramatic gaps in our drug safety standards that create an unnecessary risk to the public health” in a letter written to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

With the case and death toll of this outbreak continually rising, we hope other policymakers will respond in a similar manner. The CDC continues to urge patients who have received steroid epidural shots to be aware of symptoms. We have listed the symptoms in a past article that can be found here.

Many people with serious neck or back injuries from work or due to car accidents receive this treatment from pain management physicians, spine specialists, orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons, especially if they are trying to avoid surgery.  If you or someone you know has received epidural injections recently, check with your doctor and make sure you know the signs and symptoms to be aware of.