The number of people exposed to contaminated steroids linked to a Framingham compounding pharmacy grew to 14,000 Thursday, and health officials said patients who got joint injections also may have been infected.
So far, 170 patients with back pain who received steroid the injections made by New England Compounding Center have been sickened and 14 have died, according to the latest counts
For the first time, officials from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they believe additional patients who got injections of methylprednisolone acetate into knee, shoulder or ankle joints could also develop localized infections characterized by fever, swelling and redness. One patient in Michigan who received an injection of possibly contaminated steroid for joint pain has developed an infection in the ankle.
CDC officials also warned that patients who were treated with the steroid from three specific lots of the drug will have to remain vigilant “for several months’’ because fungus can grow slowly.
“We are not out of the woods yet,’’ said Dr. J. Todd Weber, incident manager of the multistate meningitis outbreak and chief of prevention and response branch, Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion at the CDC.
A Massachusetts official said Thursday that it appears the company violated state law governing how compounding pharmacies are supposed to work. They are not supposed to do large-scale production like a drug manufacturer, but to produce medication for patient-specific prescriptions, said Dr. Madeleine Biondolillo of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
‘‘This organization chose to apparently violate the licensing requirements under which they were allowed to operate,’’ she told reporters Thursday, the Associated Press reported.
The case continued to draw attention at the national level, as well. US Senator Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut, asked Attorney General Eric Holder to open a criminal probe into the Framingham pharmacy, according to Reuters.
The pharmacy has recalled the steroid that was sent to clinics in 23 states, as well as everything else it makes.
Idaho becomes the 11th state to report at least one illness. The others are Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia.