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No meningitis threat at MCH; Hospital does not purchase the dubious steroid in question 

PETERBOROUGH - As health officials around the country react to an outbreak of a rare form of fungal meningitis linked to a steroid product produced by a Massachusetts pharmacy, Monadnock Community Hospital announced Monday that it does not purchase the steroid from the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass.

"We do use the product. We don't use the type that NECC produces," Mike Flynn, director of pharmacy and oncology services at MCH, said on Monday. "We purchase it directly from the major pharmaceutical companies."

The product in question - methylprednisolone acetate - is a steroid that is injected to treat back pain. According to the Center for Disease Control, there had been 105 cases of fungal meningitis reported in nine states as of Monday. Eight people have died of the disease.

There are no reported cases in New Hampshire.

The hospital does buy some materials from NECC, according to Flynn. He said the hospital pulled aside everything purchased from NECC last week, when first notified of the outbreak.

Over the weekend, NECC voluntarily recalled all the products it makes - not just methylprednisolone acetate - as a precautionary measure.

"They'd rather be overcautious," Flynn said. "They've recommended pulling all their products. We'd already done that."

According to the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services, the only locations in New Hampshire that received the steroid medication were two Pain Care LLC clinics in Somersworth and Merrimack. Pain Care sent all the unused recalled product back to NECC.

"We are working very closely with Pain Care ... to contact the roughly 186 patients who received this medication," said New Hampshire's Public Health Director Dr. Jose Montero. "We are not aware of any cases in New Hampshire related to this outbreak at this time. We are also conducting surveillance to identify people who might be affected by this situation. We realize this is concerning as this can be an extremely serious and in some cases fatal illness."

Flynn said the hospital will be holding aside the products it has on hand from NECC. If concerns about contamination spread to other products, he said, the hospital has records of how the various medications were dispersed and would be able to contact patients if necessary.

"We're basically utilizing an abundance of caution," said hospital spokesperson Phil McFarland.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He's on Twitter at@DaveAndersonMLT.

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