Health care providers settling in for long haul with outbreak - WSMV Channel 4

Health care providers settling in for long haul with outbreak

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More than two weeks into the outbreak, an industry, founded on trust, finds itself unable to answer the critical question tonight ... how could this happen?

In spite of the progress, the slowness of science surrounding the meningitis outbreak has Dr. William Schaffner and the others on the front line settling in for the long haul.

"I'm afraid that we're in the middle of this meningitis outbreak and it's a continuing saga," said Schaffner. "We learn something every day. It's like a centipede going to bed. You keep hearing the other shoe drop after another. I'm afraid."

At first, tainted steroid injections seemed the cause of a 15-state outbreak.

But this week the Food and Drug Administration pointed to similar problems with other drugs made by New England Compounding Center.

One drug was in a solution used in open heart surgery, another in a joint infection.

No one knows how far it could go.

"I think there a lot of patients who, having had a cardiac procedure or an injection, whether in their backs or in their joints, will have the question raised, 'Gee, was the drug from NECC?' And it's not unreasonable for them to inquire," said Schaffner.

According to investigators, NECC violated its license by mass producing medicines. But they have not said whether they were the only ones.

And that, for many, reveals a problem - a lack of federal oversight that could be compromising patient safety.

"Why the FDA hasn't been more assertive? I'm not sure." said Schaffner.

Two weeks in and the problem for most could be bigger than just one outbreak and just one company.

"This should have been preventable. This should not have occurred," said Schaffner. "There's a lot of stress out there.

"I think our timeline has got to be measured in months, not weeks."

A couple of key reasons for that:

Patient treatments seem to work well, but doctors expect it could take months for the treatment to take full effect in most patients.

There could be more patients and more medications that could be implicated.

Investigators have not clarified what happened at NECC that led to the tainted drugs in the first place.

Copyright 2012 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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