Health Highlights: Oct. 4, 2012

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

More Cases Expected in Meningitis Outbreak

A rare and deadly form of meningitis has sickened more than two dozen people in five states, killing four, and there are likely to be more cases in what one official described as "a rapidly evolving outbreak."

All of the patients received injections of a steroid called methylprednisolone acetate, mostly for back pain. The type of meningitis in the outbreak is not contagious. It is caused by a fungus often found in leaf mold and is believed to have been in the steroid, the Associated Press reported.

The maker of the steroid is Framingham, Mass.-based specialty pharmacy New England Compounding Center, which last week issued a recall of three lots of the steroid. In a statement, company said it had voluntarily halted operations and was working with government officials to pinpoint the source of the infection.

Eighteen cases of the meningitis have been reported in Tennessee, where a Nashville clinic received the largest shipment of the steroid, the AP reported. There have been three reported cases in Virginia, two in Maryland, two in Florida, and one in North Carolina.

Two deaths occurred in Tennessee, and Virginia and Maryland each reported one death, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Five new cases were reported over the past 24 hours and it's almost certain that more new cases will be reported in the coming days, Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner said. He called the situation a "rapidly evolving outbreak," the AP reported.

However, federal health officials aren't certain that new infections are occurring. Their search for cases of this type of meningitis are increasingly turning up illnesses that occurred in the past two or three months.

Because the incubation period of the disease is estimated at anywhere between two to 28 days, some people may not have fallen ill yet, according to Tennessee health officials. They are contacting more than 900 people who received the steroid at three clinics in the state over the past three months, the AP reported.


Generic Antidepressant Pulled From Market

A generic version of the popular antidepressant Wellbutrin is being taken off the market after a U.S. Food and Drug Administration analysis showed that it does not work properly.

FDA tests found that the generic drug Budeprion XL 300 released its key ingredient into the blood faster than the brand name drug. The FDA told Teva Pharmaceuticals to withdraw its generic drug, the AP reported.

In 2008, the FDA issued an update that said Budeprion XL 300 and Wellbutrin were essentially the same. That review was conducted after hundreds of patients complained that the generic drug was ineffective or caused side effects such as anxiety, insomnia and headaches.

The FDA's own study of the generic and brand name drug was completed in August, the AP reported.

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