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University of Michigan Health System reviewing policies in wake of national meningitis outbreak


Thenational meningitis outbreak has officials at the University of Michigan Health System reviewing their policy for where they get some drugs that are in short supply.

The outbreak has been linked to tainted steroid injections from a ‘so-called’ compound pharmacy.     Four Michigan clinics used the tainted steroids to treat people with back pain.   None of the clinics are associated with UMHS. 

Compound pharmacies produce drugs that are often in short supply.    Questions are being raised about whether the industry needs broader federal regulation.

James Stevenson is the dean of U of M’s College of Pharmacy.     He says UMHS doesn’t usually use compound pharmacies to obtain needed drugs.   Stevenson says UMHS either purchases the drugs from large pharmaceutical companies or produce the drugs in-house.   Though, Stevenson says on occasion UMHS does purchases needed drugs from compound pharmacies when there are no other options.  

He says problems in the ‘compound pharmacy’ industry have university health system officials looking for their own solutions. 

“What would it take for us to in essence be able to manufacture more of these things internally. What types of space, equipment, facilities would we require in order to do that successfully,” says Stevenson,  “The real question is what can we do…or what should our processes be…to assure the safety of the product to the greatest degree that we can.”

Stevenson says it would be costly and time consuming for U of M to expand its current facilities.

Federal health official say there are 41 cases in Michigan tied to the national meningitis outbreak.   Three Michigan women have died.

Nationwide, 185 people have been sickened in the outbreak. 14 people have died. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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