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‘Multistate outbreak’ from drugs linked to Tenn. pharmacy

This isn’t deja vu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent out a press release today about a “multistate outbreak of infections following steroid injections.” This time it’s not related to New England Compounding Center, the Framingham pharmacy that produced tainted drugs officials say sickened more than 700 people, and killed 55.

Federal and state regulators announced last week that seven people had developed infections after receiving a steroid made at a Tennessee compounding pharmacy. The total is now up to 20 cases in three states, and the CDC has labelled it an outbreak.

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The agency said on its website that most reports were of “skin and soft tissue infections of unclear etiology.” There have been no reports of meningitis or life-threatening infections.

The new outbreak is far less severe than the one involving New England Compounding, but there are commonalities. Both were caused by injectable methylprednisolone acetate, used to treat pain and inflammation, and both involved compounding pharmacies that are supposed to make sterile, individualized drugs for patients who need special doses or formulations.

New England Compounding was operating beyond that scope by producing large batches, more like a drug manufacturer, and in unclean facilities, regulators found. Tennessee was among the states hardest hit by that outbreak, with 15 deaths.

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The latest issue, involving Main Street Family Pharmacy, in Newbern, Tenn., has affected patients in Florida, Illinois, and North Carolina. The Tennessean reported that the company has surrendered its license to operate in North Carolina, where patients have had skin abscesses.

No issues have been reported regarding other drugs produced at Main Street Family Pharmacy, but the company has recalled all products which were supposed to be made with sterile processes.

“Since this matter surfaced, Main Street Family Pharmacy has done everything in its power to ensure that all potentially affected compounded medicines are recalled and no longer used by consumers or health care providers,” a company statement sent by spokesman Joe Grillo said.

Chelsea Conaboy can be reached at cconaboy@boston.com. Follow her on Twitter @cconaboy.
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