Fungal meningitis death toll rises to 19

The death toll from the multi-state fungal meningitis outbreak linked to contaminated steroids rose to 19 this week, according to a Wednesday report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Massachusetts company that provided the steroids, the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Massachusetts, was raided by federal agents on Tuesday. The agents were looking into whether or not NECC violated federal controlled-substance laws, CIDRAP News reports.

U.S. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) said on Tuesday that the list of recalled products from NECC includes close to 1,000 formulations that contain substances such as ketamine, morphine and cocaine, which all require federal oversight. NECC is not registered with the Drug Enforcement Agency as a manufacturer/supplier.

Earlier in the investigation into the outbreak, officials said that NECC appeared to be operating outside of its license by providing bulk medication rather than medications sold to fill individual prescriptions, according to CIDRAP News.

The number of cases in the outbreak rose by 14 in the past week to 247 cases. There are 15 states affected by the outbreak, with Indiana, Virginia, Michigan and Tennessee among the states reporting the highest number of cases.

The infections are linked to three methylprednisolone acetate lots from NECC. The drug is used for injections that treat joint problems and back pain.

Janet Woodcock, the director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, asked doctors on Tuesday to check on patients treated with other NECC drugs. The FDA is currently unable to assure the safety of NECC products, CIDRAP News reports.