91 Sick in Meningitis Outbreak

Libero Ajello / CDC via AP Photo

This undated photo made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a branch of the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus.

The latest meningitis outbreak has left seven people dead and 91 sick, and now federal health officials have warned that New England Compounding Center sold 17,676 vials of an unsafe steroid to pain clinics in 23 states. A shortage of steroids has led doctors to turn to compounding companies, which create batches of drugs on their own and often at a discount. In 2011 alone, 2.5 million Medicare patients received such steroids. One expert warned, “The Food and Drug Administration has more regulatory authority over a drug factory in China than over a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts.”