Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Back Pain Health Center

Font Size

FDA Finds Mold, Germs at Compounding Pharmacy

Contaminated Steroid Shots From Pharmacy Have Killed 25
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 26, 2012 -- "Greenish black foreign matter" in supposedly sterile drug vials. Germs growing in steroid vials supposedly tested for sterility. Mold growing in the "clean room" where drug vials were filled.

These are just some of the observations made during an FDA inspection of New England Compounding Center (NECC). The Massachusetts compounding pharmacy's products appear to be the source of the ongoing fungal meningitis outbreak.

As of today, there have been 331 cases of fungal meningitis and seven joint infections caused by tainted steroids made by NECC. So far, 25 people have died.

It's not a final report. In a news conference, FDA officials refused to draw any conclusions from the findings. But the observations made by the FDA's inspection team paint an unsettling picture.

Among the findings:

  • In a bin holding 321 vials of methylprednisolone from the lots implicated in the outbreak, 83 vials contained "greenish black foreign matter" and 17 contained "white filamentous material."
  • The NECC said its sampling showed that a batch of methylprednisolone was sterile. The FDA tested 50 vials from this lot and found living "microbial growth" in all 50.
  • The so-called "clean room" where the NECC's sterile products were put into vials had mold and bacteria growing on many surfaces.
  • The autoclave, a device that uses heated steam to sterilize products, had "greenish yellow discoloration" and "tarnished discoloration" on the inside.
  • The NECC plant's heating and air intake is 100 feet from a recycling facility where heavy equipment throws up dust. "Dark particulate and white, filamentous substances" covered the air ducts behind one of the autoclaves used to sterilize products.
  • There were puddles of water near a boiler close to the prep room where products were prepared. Wet floor surfaces "appeared to be soiled with thick white debris and thick black granular material."
  • The air conditioner in the clean room is supposed to be on all the time to control humidity, temperature, and air pollution. But the NECC turned the clean room's A/C off at night.

One of the safety steps used in drug making is to make sure the gloves worn by people in the clean room are sterile. After finishing a product, workers press their gloved fingers into a culture dish (called a touch plate) that can be tested for germs.

FDA tests found mold and or bacteria growing in touch plates from workers who had prepared products (low-dose Avastin, for example) not currently suspected of causing fungal infections.

Today on WebMD

Woman holding lower back
Or is it another form of back pain?
Hand on back
See the myths vs. the facts.
Woman doing pilates
Good and bad exercises.
acupuncture needles in woman's back
Use it to manage your pain.
Man with enhanced spinal column, rear view
pain in brain and nerves
Chronic Pain Healtcheck
Health Check
break at desk
Woman holding lower back
Weight Loss Surgery
lumbar spine
back pain