PA Hospitals Responding to Meningitis Outbreak

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In the wake of a fungal meningitis outbreak traced to the Massachusetts-based New England Compounding Center (NECC), Pennsylvania’s hospitals are following up with patients who were administered any injectable medication from or produced by NECC, as well as educating the communities they serve about this public health issue. To date, only one case has been identified in Pennsylvania.

“Patient safety is the number one priority for Pennsylvania’s hospitals,” said Carolyn F. Scanlan, president and chief executive officer of The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP). “As the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigation continues, Pennsylvania’s hospitals will keep their patients and communities informed about this issue.”

On October 4, the FDA advised health care providers to not use any NECC products, and last week, the FDA added additional NECC drugs to its watch list. The FDA has advised health care providers to notify patients, whose treatment involved any products from NECC, of the symptoms that might indicate a potential infection. Pennsylvania’s hospitals are working to make sure patients and their communities are aware of this public health issue.

In addition, Pennsylvania’s hospitals are exercising due diligence as they contract with compounding pharmacies to ensure they are getting good, quality, and safe products.

“Some of the steps hospitals can take include checking the compounding pharmacy’s license and certificates of insurance, checking that the pharmacy’s staff are licensed by federal and local agencies, and obtaining from the pharmacy information about product problems or recalls, including state board of pharmacy investigations or enforcement actions and/or FDA warning letters and enforcement actions,” Scanlan said.

Pennsylvania’s hospitals also are complying with the FDA’s MedWatch Safety Information System and will report any potential infections to the FDA, as well as the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Individuals with questions are urged to contact their health care provider if they experience any 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).

HAP is a statewide membership services organization that advocates for nearly 250 Pennsylvania acute and specialty care, primary care, subacute care, long-term care, home health, and hospice providers, as well as the patients and communities they serve. Additional information about HAP is available online at www.haponline.org

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