The Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed two additional cases of meningitis, bringing the state's total to seven in a national outbreak linked to tainted spinal injections.
The two patients, a man in his 50s and a woman in her 40s, have been hospitalized with fungal meningitis, the Health Department reported Wednesday. Like the others, they fell ill after they were treated with steroids at two Twin Cities clinics, Medical Advanced Pain Specialists (MAPS) and the Minnesota Surgery Center.
Meanwhile, Health Department officials have been contacting more than 120 other Minnesota clinics, warning that many more patients may be at risk.
Although those clinics did not buy the contaminated steroid at the center of the national investigation, they all bought other drugs from the same company, the New England Compounding Center, in the past five months, according to federal investigators.
This week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety alert about some of those other drugs and urged clinics to tell patients about the possible risk of infection.
So far, the Health Department has declined to publicly release the company's customer list in Minnesota. Doug Schultz, a department spokesman, said the list is still subject to revision and will be released when it's more complete.
In the meantime, Allina Health disclosed Wednesday that more than 600 patients had received some of the suspect drugs at five of its hospitals and a dozen clinics.
In a memo to employees, Dr. Penny Wheeler, the chief clinical officer, said Allina had not purchased any of the contaminated steroids but had bought 10 injectable medications from New England Compounding. "Consistent with FDA recommendations, we will be notifying patients," she wrote.
The FDA said it has not definitively linked any of the additional drugs to fungal infections, but it had issued the alert out of an "abundance of caution."
The meningitis outbreak was traced to fungus found in three batches of injectable steroids made by New England Compounding, a specialty pharmacy in Framingham, Mass.
On Wednesday, the national toll rose to 245 cases of meningitis, two joint infections and 19 deaths in 15 states. No deaths have been reported in Minnesota, but nearly 1,000 Minnesotans are known to have received steroids from contaminated lots, officials say.
Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384