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By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE – A third case of illness in Rhode Island linked to the nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak was identified by the R.I. Department of Health, agency officials announced on Nov. 5.
The patient, a male in his fifties from Warwick, had received a spinal epidural injection at Ocean State Pain Management on Sept. 22, from one of the three contaminated lots of medication. The patient is undergoing treatment, health officials said.
In total, 266 patients in Rhode Island received the recalled medication produced by New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Mass. These lots have been linked to a multi-state outbreak of meningitis following epidural steroid injection.
Nationwide, the steroid produced by the company has been linked to 424 fungal meningitis cases and 31 deaths as of Nov. 7, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As a result of the outbreak, New England Compounding closed in October and all of its products were recalled.
In Massachusetts, the director of the state pharmacy board, James D. Coffey, has been fired and the board’s attorney, Susan Manning, has been placed on administrative leave for allegedly ignoring a complaint in July that New England Compounding Center was distributing bulk shipments of drugs to hospitals in Colorado, in violation of its state licenses, according to state health officials.
The Colorado Board of Pharmacy had contacted Coffey on July 26 about the problem, but no investigation was undertaken, according to Dr. Lauren Smith, interim commissioner of the Mass. Department of Public Health.