Woman sues company at center of deadly meningitis outbreak

MINNEAPOLIS Thu Oct 11, 2012 10:17pm EDT

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MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - A Minnesota woman who says she received injections of the steroid at the center of a deadly outbreak of fungal meningitis in the United States on Thursday sued the company that made the suspect medication.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Minnesota, said that Barbe Puro of Savage, Minnesota, suffered "bodily harm, emotional distress, and other personal injuries" after being injected on September 17 with doses of the steroid medication.

Puro is the first apparent victim of tainted steroid injections to sue the Framingham, Massachusetts-based New England Compounding Center (NECC) - the company at the center of a meningitis outbreak that has killed 14 people. As many as 14,000 people received injections from suspect shipments of the steroid treatments produced by NECC.

Representatives of the company did not immediately respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment on the lawsuit.

Puro, who suffers from chronic back pain, said in the lawsuit that she suffered headaches and nausea for a week after receiving the injections at a medical clinic in Shakopee, Minnesota, a suburb southwest of Minneapolis.

The Minnesota state health department told Puro last week that her injections were from the suspect medication, said her lawyer, Jeffrey Montpetit. They told her to be tested for possible fungal meningitis.

Puro underwent a spinal tap and blood work and is awaiting the results of those tests, Montpetit said in a telephone interview. Puro was injured several years ago in a fall while walking a dog, he said.

"The problem is they are treating for a pain issue to begin with," Montpetit said of the patients. "When they get an onset of symptoms it doesn't naturally occur to them that this is something different than what they have been dealing with."

The lawsuit proposes a class comprised of Minnesota residents who received the possibly tainted injections since June this year.

There have been three reported meningitis cases in Minnesota, where about 830 people were treated with the suspect steroids. The company shipped the medication to 23 states.

The lawsuit is Barbe Puro v. New England Compounding Pharmacy Inc, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, No. 12-2605.

(Reporting by David Bailey; editing by Grant McCool and Mohammad Zargham)

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