Contaminated Drug Victims Watch New England Compounding Center Trial : Shots - Health News An outbreak of fungal infections tied to contaminated medicines killed at least 64 people and sickened about 700 more. Almost five years later, many people are still feeling the effects.
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Victims Of Contaminated Steroids Still Hurting: 'My Life's Upside-Down'

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Victims Of Contaminated Steroids Still Hurting: 'My Life's Upside-Down'

Victims Of Contaminated Steroids Still Hurting: 'My Life's Upside-Down'

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Hundreds of people around the country are still suffering medical complications from getting injections of tainted steroids produced at a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy in 2012. The former head of New England Compounding Center is on trial in Boston facing federal charges that include racketeering and second-degree murder. The outbreak of fungal infections killed at least 64 people and sickened about 700 more. From member station WBUR, Lynn Jolicoeur reports on some of those who never fully recovered.

LYNN JOLICOEUR, BYLINE: Forty-six-year-old Angel Farthing is one of the younger victims of the 2012 fungal infection outbreak.

ANGEL FARTHING: I got very sick. I was vomiting all the time. I had horrible headaches every day.

JOLICOEUR: It started when she got an injection of a steroid medication that turned out to be contaminated with a fungus.

FARTHING: I had fungal meningitis. I was admitted to the hospital. And when I was released, I ended up having a stroke and developed a brain aneurysm. I was readmitted and I was there for almost another two months.

JOLICOEUR: Now the Maryland resident says she lives with a burning pain over the lower half of her body. Federal prosecutors say the steroids were mixed in unsanitary conditions with expired ingredients. The compounding pharmacy's former president, Barry Cadden, is on trial right now. His lawyer says Cadden didn't mix the drugs and is being blamed for the mistakes of others at the pharmacy. Bill Thomas of Michigan got one of the tainted shots. He told us about it over Skype.

BILL THOMAS: Before I even got home, I felt I didn't feel right. I felt sick.

JOLICOEUR: Then 58 years old, Thomas also contracted meningitis. And like many of the other patients, he had a severe reaction to the anti-fungal medications doctors used to treat his infection. And that made things worse.

THOMAS: I've gone from being a person who had extreme energy - I was active all day, every day from 6 a.m. till midnight. And now I'm always tired. I'm always in pain. I just can't really function. I can't think. I get confused easily.

JOLICOEUR: Thomas has waited years for his first compensation check from the court settlement with the compounding pharmacy.

THOMAS: I haven't seen a penny.

JOLICOEUR: His lawyer says he'll get a check this week. Many others are still waiting because negotiations with insurers to determine how much they will be reimbursed for the victim's care have dragged out the process. In the meantime, many of the victims are anxious for a conviction against the former compounding pharmacy president.

EVELYN MARCH: I hope he gets his butt burned.

JOLICOEUR: Evelyn March is 85. The Michigan resident was healthy and active before the injection that gave her a fungal infection in her spine. Since the infection, she's bedridden in constant pain.

MARCH: I don't understand why things could be allowed to happen like that. Getting old is bad enough, but then to put something else on to it?

JOLICOEUR: Angel Farthing says she feels like less of a person physically. She had to walk away from her business training dance teachers because of her pain. But her greatest loss was immeasurable. Her marriage collapsed in the midst of the medical ordeal, and then her husband took his own life.

FARTHING: He really suffered quite a bit when I was diagnosed. He had to take care of me. He had to bathe me. He had to change me. He had to do my IV. He was a recovering alcoholic. And unfortunately, he stopped going to AA meetings and he succumbed to his addiction.

JOLICOEUR: Farthing says part of what keeps her going is knowing so many victims in the outbreak didn't get the chance. She plans to go witness a portion of the trial in Boston next week. So does Bill Thomas, though he says just traveling to be there will be physically devastating. He hopes the case sends a message.

THOMAS: There's so much greed and carelessness and hubris involved. Tremendous harm was done to a great many people, and that should not be forgotten.

JOLICOEUR: Barry Cadden faces charges in connection with 25 deaths. Another supervisor from the compounding pharmacy will face trial on similar charges separately. For NPR News, I'm Lynn Jolicoeur in Boston.

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