For Karissa Klemm, the nationwide story of a fungal meningitis outbreak is a personal story of survival. The Northridge High School student is one of the 30 victims of the affliction in Elkhart County. Nationwide, 461 cases have been diagnosed and 17,000 patients were exposed to the tainted medicine, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
We told Karissa’s story in last Saturday’s edition. Since then, one more case of the disease has been recorded in Elkhart County and a fifth death in Indiana from the outbreak has occurred. Elkhart County has a high number of these cases due to the OSMC Outpatient Surgery Center in Elkhart having unknowingly used the tainted MPA steroid back pain medication to treat patients from across Michiana. OSMC is one of six clinics in Indiana to have utilized the medication, and it appears that these businesses have also been victimized by this outbreak.
The outbreak is a perfect example of how one supplier of medicine or food can cause a nationwide problem and leave health experts scrambling to control something they have not experienced before. In the past, the United States has had widespread outbreaks of bacterial infections caused by vegetables and fruits and sometimes meat. But this medicinal outbreak is something new, where a fungus inadvertently contaminated large amounts of medicine. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration are continuing their investigation into how the fungus contaminated the medicine at the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass.
The one thing about this outbreak that is really scary, is that the contaminated medicine was widely distributed without anyone knowing it was contaminated until the first infections began to appear.
What needs to occur now is a change in regulatory powers and procedures to make sure that in the future, all equipment and compounds at similar compounding centers are thoroughly tested and tested at short intervals, to make sure no contaminants are allowed into any medication. If that means Congress has to tighten regulations and approve more funding for more inspectors, then so be it.
As a community and nation, we must ensure that the health of people like Karissa is not harmed by lack of proper oversight of the pharmaceutical industry.