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Official: Tainted steriods have Arizona connection

PHOENIX — Two people in Arizona received tainted pain shots — in other states — with medicine from the Massachusetts facility linked to 25 deaths from fungal meningitis, according to the state’s top health officer.

“They are being followed by their county health departments and health care providers to make sure, should they come down with symptoms, they’re identified quickly, but so far, so good,” said Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Due to privacy laws, the department isn’t revealing the patients’ names, the part of Arizona they’re in or the states in which they received the injections.

More than 300 people in 18 states who received the contaminated injections have been diagnosed with fungal meningitis or strokes presumed to be caused by fungal meningitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Fortunately by now, the CDC has been able to track down every single person who received an injection from the New England Compounding Center,” Humble said. “I think this investigation is mature enough that we would know by now if there were additional folks who received injections from out of state, so I think we’re out of the woods.”

None of the shipments of the compounded steroids came to Arizona, which is a relief to Dr. John Guisto, who runs the emergency department at the University of Arizona Medical Center-University Campus.

“I would just as soon we never saw a case of it ever,” Guisto said.

Humble predicted that Congress will hold hearings on the safety and oversight of compounding drugs, which he said are regulated less rigorously by the Food and Drug Administration.

“There are tragedies at the end of the line here, so it is something that really needs to be looked at in more detail,” Humble said. “I’m not saying that any drug from a compounding company is a risk. We need to find out whether this is a systemic issue or an isolated case.”

For people who want to be proactive about their health, Humble suggested listening to that inner voice.

“If something is telling you that something’s amiss with the care you’re receiving from your physician or health care provider, listen to that voice and get a second opinion,” he said.