11 cases of meningitis now confirmed in Indiana


There is new information about a meningitis outbreak that has killed at least eight people.

There are now 105 cases of meningitis in nine states, including Indiana. The state's Department of Health said Monday 11 people have been sickened with fungal meningitis in the state.

The Centers for Disease Control reported an eighth death from the outbreak in Tennessee.

The outbreak is tied to a commercial Massachusetts pharmacy. Federal health investigators suspect it manufactured and distributed contaminated steroid injections that patients rely on to relieve back pain.

Those steroids went to hospitals and pain clinics in just six Indiana communities.

The New England Compounding Center had already recalled 17,000 doses of an epidural steroid that federal investigators suspect to be contaminated and responsible for the outbreak of fungal meningitis. The steroid had been sent to clinics in 23 states.

As a precaution, Saturday, the company recalled its entire line of pharmaceuticals. The government last week urged doctors not to use any of the company's products.

St. Francis Hospital didn't wait for the recall. Late last week, it boxed up and quarantined seven commonly-used drugs manufactured by the suspect Massachusetts pharmacy.

"We thought it was prudent, under the circumstances," said Dr. Christopher Doehring, vice president of medical affairs at St. Francis Hospital.

Doehring and his staff had the difficult and costly task of quickly acquiring replacement drugs.

"We did have to go to a vendor that was charging an astronomical price for a fairly commonly-used drug," he said.

The hospital had been paying about $100 for each vial of a drug used to control labor in pregnant women. Now, St. Francis is paying $3,000 per vial.

The hospital says, at least for now, it is absorbing the price increase and not passing it on to patients.

Steroid injections are common treatments that millions of people depend upon to relieve a wide variety of joint pains. Health care providers are now having to reassure patients who are concerned and want to make certain their treatments are safe.

In his career, Dr. Ronald Miller at OrthoIndy says not one of his patients has ever developed an infection from a steroid injection.

"Steroid injections have been used for decades now, very safely, with an extremely low risk of infection," he said.

Other hospitals in central Indiana are taking precautions, as well. IU Health says it has cleared the shelves of drugs made by the New England Compounding Center and destroyed them. St. Francis Hospital locked its drugs up and is awaiting recommendations from the FDA.

CDC meningitis information