Personal Injury Vocabulary: Compounding Pharmacies

Matthew Powell

If you watch television, surf the internet, or read a newspaper, then you have likely happened upon the recent story of contaminated cortisone shots causing meningitis.  Cortisone injections are given to patients with chronic pain.  Many of the people have already suffered a great deal as a result of infection or an accident resulting in long-lasting pain and discomfort.  That situation only became worse when the shots meant to alleviate their pain carried a horrible side effect.

The cortisone shots were found to contain a microorganism capable of causing a potentially fatal strain of meningitis.  The tainted drug was injected in approximately 14,000 patients before the discovery was made.  There were more than 300 cases of meningitis reported afterward throughout 17 states.  Worse yet, there were at least 23 patients who lost the battle.

A compounding pharmacy was at fault, but few really knew what a compounding pharmacy was and fewer still knew that they existed unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration.  In short, compounding pharmacies bring in medications, and then sort, dose, and package those drugs for outside use.  The FDA regulates ingredients, of course, but did not oversee the pharmacies doing the packaging.  Of the more than 50,000 pharmacies in this country, approximately half are compounding pharmacies.  None of those are directly regulated by the FDA.

It was discovered that improper sterilization was at fault for the microorganism finding its way into the vials.  That is to say that the pharmacy is negligent and this is not the first instance of a compounding pharmacy failing the public.  One compounding pharmacy in the late ‘90s was found guilty of diluting medications; another provided improper dosing that caused two deaths in 2007; and yet another caused serious eye infections in patients when the medication was contaminated during packaging.

Of course, after seeing the fault on such a broad scale, the FDA is likely to make a stance and change regulations for compounding pharmacies, but it’s too late for those families already impacted.  It is likely that victims will come together to file a class action suit.

Matthew Powell

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One Response to Personal Injury Vocabulary: Compounding Pharmacies

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