Meningitis death toll rises to 11

New York Times News Service Published Oct 10, 2012 at 05:00AM

The number of people who have died in a national meningitis outbreak linked to injections with a contaminated drug rose to 11 on Tuesday as lawmakers called for a congressional inquiry into pharmacies of the kind that made the medicine and new laws to ensure tighter federal oversight of their operations.

In all, a total of 119 people have been affected in the outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. All of them had been injected with a pain drug shipped around the country by a pharmacy in Massachusetts. Health officials on Tuesday reported three new deaths.

As state and federal health officials scrambled to notify the 13,000 people who may have been given the drug — methylprednisolone acetate, an epidural steroid that is injected into the neck and spine for pain — Democratic members of Congress raised questions about the lack of clear federal authority over compounding pharmacies.

The drug that federal health officials suspect was contaminated with fungus was made by the New England Compounding Center, registered as a pharmacy in Framingham, Mass.