Calls for greater regulation increase after meningitis scare

Congress is under pressure to close a regulatory loophole that may have enabled the shipment of a tainted steroid medication that has infected 138 people with meningitis and killed 12.

The Massachusetts-based New England Compounding Center, a pharmaceutical compounding company, produces the steroid methylprednisolone acetate. A tainted batch of the steroid medication spread meningitis to 11 states, Reuters reports.

Health practitioners contacted approximately 13,000 people around the nation who received injections from the potentially tainted supply of steroid medication.

The company that produced the product was previously largely exempt from federal regulation as a result of what critics are calling a loophole.

"We urge Congress to give FDA (the Food and Drug Administration) the authority it needs to assure these kinds of outbreaks do not happen again," an official with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said, according to Reuters.

Senate and House lawmakers from both parties asked federal health officials on Tuesday for briefings on the outbreak as a step toward potential legislative action to strengthen safety regulations.

Infections from the disease occurred in Tennessee, Michigan, Maryland, Virginia, Florida, Indiana, Florida, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, New Jersey and Idaho. Tennessee has been the hardest hit with 44 cases and six deaths, according to Reuters.