Health Care Providers Say "Sterile" Drugs Are Often Contaminated

Contaminated Compounded Sterile Drugs

The "sterile" drugs you receive from compounding pharmacies may not be so sterile after all. A new survey of health care practitioners found that many believe compounded drugs were contaminated in their facilities last year. This same type of contamination led to the fungal meningitis outbreak that has resulted in 45 deaths and almost 700 infections so far.

The meningitis outbreak was caused by contaminated steroid injections and has led to what an official called one of "the worst public health disasters related to medication in [his] lifetime." The findings of the recent survey indicate that a similar outbreak could occur. Researchers discovered that:

  • Only half of the health care practitioners polled were confident that their facility was free of contamination in the past year.
  • Roughly three quarters of the pharmacists surveyed admitted that contamination of seemingly sterile drugs could potentially occur in the future at their site.
  • Federal inspectors have found contamination throughout various sites, even in the "clean room" of one facility.

The preparation of compounded sterile drugs is a difficult procedure that requires the careful mixing of non-sterile drugs with other ingredients. The non-sterile drugs must then be sterilized in order to prevent bacteria, fungi, mold, or other contamination from existing in the final product administered to patients.

Based on the results of the survey, it is unclear at exactly which point the drugs are introduced to contamination. It is also unclear whether the contamination was reported and if the drugs made it to patients.

Source: "Sterile drugs often contaminated, pharmacists admit." January 30, 2013.