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Alexander Praises Tennessee and Other State, Federal Health Officials for Quick Response to Deadly 2012 Meningitis Outbreak

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 19 –U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate health committee, today praised the work of Tennessee and other federal, state, and local health department officials for their swift work that saved 124 lives and prevented thousands of additional infections, during the multistate fungal meningitis outbreak in 2012, according to a study published yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Dr. Marion Kainer’s and Dr. April Pettit’s quick response to the earliest meningitis case in Tennessee helped quickly narrow the source of the fungal infections and limit the number of victims who received the contaminated steroid injections nationwide,” Alexander said. “I commend them and the many other federal, state, and local public health officials around the nation who responded so quickly. At a time when it was unclear who was on the flagpole for this terrifying crisis, their leadership and swift response saved many lives, and I hope with proper oversight we can help ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.” 

In the fall of 2012, a multistate fungal meningitis outbreak led to more than 750 cases of meningitis and other fungal infections, which resulted in 64 deaths, including 16 in Tennessee, because of contaminated steroid injections distributed by Massachusetts-based New England Compounding Center. Dr. Marion Kainer of the Tennessee Department of Health found the cause of the outbreak, and Dr. April Pettit of Vanderbilt University Medical Center made the connection between a past spinal injection and a rare fungal form of meningitis in a patient.

Alexander and a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation to help prevent another compounding crisis, as well as protect the nation’s drug supply chain for the nearly 4 billion prescriptions filled annually by establishing a uniform, national prescription drug-tracing framework. This bill was signed into law on November 27, 2013. 

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