ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Department of Health on Friday identified eight facilities that received contaminated pain medicine from a Massachusetts specialty pharmacy that has been linked to a nationwide meningitis outbreak.
The agency said in a news release that the eight facilities received shipments from one or more of contaminated lot numbers of this medication. Three of the medical centers are in Ocala and the rest are scattered around Florida.
Centers for Disease Control 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 17,676 single-dose vials of the steroid, methylprednisolone acetate. Shipments went to clinics in 23 states. As of Friday, there had been 47 cases in seven states linked to the medicine; two of those cases were in Florida, officials said.
Aaron Keller, a spokesman with the Florida Department of Health, said it’s unclear how many injections of the contaminated pain medicine were administered.
“We do not know at this point,” he said. “The investigation is ongoing.”
The Associated Press called all eight facilities on Friday and left messages with six.
Bill Cox, the vice president of operations, east Florida division for HCA Ambulatory Surgery Division, wrote in an email that six patients who were treated at Surgical Park Center in Miami received medication provided by the Massachusetts pharmacy.
Cox said his company has called all six patients to tell them about the situation and said that the state health department “has advised us that their risk is relatively low.”
He added that his company and the state advise that patients who received the medicine should contact their primary care doctors — or go to an emergency room if they are experiencing urgent symptoms.
Michael Guarino, an administrator for at the Surgery Center of Ocala, said that his ambulatory surgical center bought the medicine from the Massachusetts pharmacy in late May and administered it to 20 patients in July and August. The center still had some of the medicine in question when they found out about the meningitis outbreak and contamination on Tuesday.
Guarino said that all 20 patients who received the injection have been contacted and that they are showing no effects of meningitis.
“I’ve been in the business for 15 years and nothing like this has ever occurred,” he said.
Guarino and Keller said that the Florida facilities buy medicine from pharmacies across the country, depending on drug shortages, price and availability.
The state Department of Health said the affected facilities are: Florida Pain Clinic, Ocala; Interventional Rehab Center, Pensacola; Marion Pain Management Center, Ocala; North County Surgicenter, Palm Beach; Orlando Center for Outpatient Surgery, Orlando; Pain Consultants of West Florida, Pensacola; Surgery Center of Ocala and Surgical Park Center, Miami.
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