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Suit to be filed over meningitis outbreak

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Attorneys for a Columbus woman who has developed symptoms of fungal meningitis after being treated with steroid injections are suing the drugmaker at the center of a widening outbreak blamed on tainted shots.

Nancy Compass received three steroid treatment shots in her spine for lower back pain in July and August at Wellspring Pain Solutions in Columbus. Since then, she has “experienced frequent, intermittent and migratory headaches, episodes of blurred vision and discomfort with lowering her chin to her chest,” according to the suit that attorneys said would be filed Friday in Bartholomew County.

New England Compounding Center, its pharmaceutical production companies and the company’s majority shareholders are named as defendants. The suit says federal health officials estimate that 17,676 potentially tainted vials of methylprednisolone acetate were sold to 75 hospitals in 23 states. The vials lacked an alcohol preservative, leaving patients subject to potential infection from a fungus that had not been eradicated, the suit says.

Thirty four cases of fungal menigitis tied to the shots have been reported in Indiana, and two deaths in the state have been attributed to the outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Attorney Brady Rife with McNeely Stephenson Thopy & Harrold in Shelbyville said the suit is representative of patients who received shots and have symptoms of fungal meningitis, but are in limbo because a diagnosis often cannot be immediately made. The CDC says diagnosis sometimes cannot be made until 90 days after infection.

Starr Austen & Miller LLP of Logansport also is representing Compass. The suit claims strict product liability for failure to warn and for a dangerously defective product, as well as a claim of negligence. The suit seeks unspecified damages in addition to damages for personal injuries, medical expenses, past and future suffering and emotional distress, and attorney fees.

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