STEUBENVILLE - Trinity Health System Spokesman Keith Murdock has a simple message for hospital patients who are expressing concerns about the tainted steroid shots that has killed 20 people.
"Trinity Health has not ever purchased or ever used steroid serum from the New England Compounding Center that was linked to a recent meningitis outbreak," stated Murdock.
And, Trinity West Pharmacist Gerald John, who has been fielding dozens of telephone phone calls from hospital patients said Trinity, "Has never purchased or used anything from the pharmacy in Massachusetts."
CHECKING A DRUG — Gerald John, the director of pharmacy at Trinity Medical Center West, checks a steroid serum in the hospital pharmacy. John said Friday Trinity Health Systems and its related offices never received a tainted steroid from the New England Compound Center that has been linked to 20 deaths from meningitis fungal infections.
"Yes, our medical staff used steroid shots to treat certain cases. But we do not have the tainted product and there is no known risk here," added John.
"A steroid is used fairly commonly to treat inflammation and pain in the spine and sometimes in joints. Physicians at Trinity use a safe steroid drug. We do not use any drugs from the company linked to the tainted drug," explained John.
The tainted drug has been blamed for more than 250 cases of fungal meningitis so far.
"I don't mind answering phone calls, but we have been hearing from a lot of people who have been treated by Trinity or our related offices. They have concerns after reading and watching the news about the tainted steroid. But we did not receive that serum and have never received medicine from the New England Compounding Center," John said.
John said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has established a Website at cdc.gov/HAI/outbreaks/meningitis that provides up-to-date information and lists medical facilities that received the steroid serum.
According to the CDC Website, the tainted steroid serum was shipped to four medical facilities in Ohio including the BKC Pain Specialists in Marion, Cincinnati Pain Management, the Marion Pain Clinic and the Ortho-Spine Rehabilitation Center in Dublin.
The only site to receive the tainted steroid in West Virginia was the Pars Interventional Pain Center in Parkersburg.
And, only two sites in Pennsylvania are listed by the CDC as receiving the tainted serum including Allegheny Pain Management in Altoona and South Hills Pain & Rehab Associates in Jefferson Hills.
Officials from the Steubenville and Jefferson County Health Departments have said they remain in daily contact with the Ohio Department of Health.
"There have been no cases in Jefferson County," said Jefferson County Health Administrator Bruce Misselwitz.
And, Steubenville Health Commissioner Patty Reda has said the tainted serum was limited to shots and was not found in steroid pills.
The specialty pharmacy has been at the center of a federal and state investigation into more than 250 fungal meningitis cases. The death toll rose Thursday to 20.
The victims in the outbreak had all received steroid shots made by the pharmacy, mostly to treat back pain. The company last month recalled three lots of the steroid made since May. It later shut down operations and recalled all the medicines it makes.
The fungus was confirmed in one steroid batch made in August, according to the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has linked outbreak illnesses to all three lots; tests are continuing on the other two lots.
The initial recall involved about 17,700 single-dose vials of the steroid sent to clinics in 23 states. As many as 14,000 people got shots from the three lots.
Exserohilum is common in dirt and grasses, but it rarely causes illness and has never before been identified as a cause of meningitis, CDC officials have said.
Meningitis is caused by the inflammation of protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Tainted spinal injections would directly put germs into that part of the body.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story. Gossett can be contacted at email@example.com.)