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Meningitis outbreak spotlights risks from custom-mixed drugs

Seattle Post Intelligencer / Associated Press, October 5, 2012

At least five people dead and 35 sickened with fungal meningitis that has been linked to steroid shots for back pain. These incidents involved medicines that had been custom-mixed at compounding pharmacies which supply hospitals, clinics and doctors. The risks from these products have long been known but are being amplified now by a national shortage of many drugs that has forced doctors to seek custom-made alternatives to the usual first-choice treatments. The steroid suspected in the current outbreak has been in short supply. "Because of the incredible number of drugs that are out of stock or back-ordered, compounding pharmacies are working with local hospitals, clinics and physicians to fill that gap," said David Miller, executive vice president of the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists, a trade organization.