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Bacteria in IV Solution Kills Nine, Pharmacy Blamed

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Nineteen Alabama hospital patients experienced severe bacterial illness from contaminated total parenteral nutrition (TPN) administered intravenously. Nine of those patients died because of the illness. Area health officials suspect a pharmacy in Birmingham is the source of the bacterial infection. Despite the deaths, the news media seem to have missed the seriousness of this tragic, easily preventable event.

Six Area Hospitals Affected

IV Meds of Birmingham[1] prepared the TPN solution for six Alabama hospitals. Through DNA testing, investigators found that the bacteria in the patients’ blood were genetically identical to bacteria found on a faucet at the pharmacy. This leads to the conclusion that the bacteria came directly from the pharmacy. The hospitals affected include Baptist Princeton, Baptist Shelby, Baptist Prattville, Medical West, Cooper Green Mercy and Select Specialty Hospital in Birmingham.

Bacterial Infection in the Bloodstream

The bacteria in question, Serratia marcescens, is usually harmless. It resides in moist areas and is easy to treat if detected early. However, once these bacteria enter the bloodstream, septic shock becomes a major concern.[2]

Wrongful Death Lawsuits

At least six families are considering wrongful death lawsuits against IV Meds for the death of their loved ones. They believe the responsibility for these wrongful deaths lies with the pharmacy as manufacturer and distributor of the tainted TPN solution.

Voluntary Recall Initiated

IV Meds stopped production and recalled all compounded IV products immediately after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notified the company of the contamination.[3] Compounded IV products are specialized solutions adapted to each patient’s needs. Large-scale manufacturers find it too costly to tailor medications for individual patients, so compounded medications often come from smaller pharmacies like IV Meds. TPN compounded solutions are mixed off site and then delivered to the hospital in premixed bags.

Outbreak Contained

Alabama State Health Officer, Donald Williamson reports that the infection is contained and the risk of contamination is over. Hospitals are no longer using IV Meds products and the company’s recall ensures that no one else will become sick.

Never Events

The media has failed to grasp the seriousness of this medical error.  Not one reporter mentioned that contamination of medications falls under the category of “never events.” It is among a list of shocking medical errors that “should never happen.”[4] These events are defined as clearly identifiable, measurable, and usually preventable adverse events that can result in death or serious disability.

The medical community puts strict rules in place to ensure “never events” do not happen. Pharmacies follow protocols to ensure that compounded solutions are delivered in safe, sterile condition. Had IV Meds followed proper procedures in preparing the TPN, nine more people would be alive today.

Contact Us

If you or someone you love was sickened or killed because of tainted or otherwise defective drugs, contact our office. We have experienced attorneys on staff who will meet with you free of charge to discuss your case. We can help you understand your rights and decide if a defective drug lawsuit is the right action for you.


[1] http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/03/31/alabama.hospitals.deaths/

[2] http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/health/articles/2011/03/29/9_dead_after_infection_outbreak_in_ala_hospitals/

[3] http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm249068.htm

[4] http://www.psnet.ahrq.gov/primer.aspx?primerID=3

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