ROANOKE CO., VA. -- It was one year ago that fungal meningitis killed 64 people nationwide including a Salem man, and sickened hundreds including a Roanoke County teenager. The source? Tainted medicine from steroid injections, according to authorities.
Cave Spring High School football player Zac Foutz is back on the field this fall. When you watch him play you may not realize he was hospitalized last fall with fungal meningitis he got from a tainted steroid injection.
Now one year later, he's still not fully recovered. "He's had issues." said Zac's dad Ben Foutz. "He seems to continue to get better and better, but he's not 100 percent."
"His ambitions are to play college football," said Foutz. "He's a junior this year. It's been a roller coaster for him as well as for us."
What's frustrating for Ben Foutz is that one year later there are still no regulations on compounding pharmacies that make the drugs, like the one he says made his son sick.
"You don't know unless you ask whether you're getting an FDA approved drug or not. and the drug that my son received as well as 14,000 people across the country was not an FDA approved drug," said Ben Foutz.
Then fifteen year old Zac Foutz and 47 year old Douglas Wingate from Salem both got a spinal steroid injection at Insight Imaging in Roanoke. The medicine came from a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy, New England Compounding Center, which is now closed.
In December, 2012 the medical examiner ruled Wingate's death was caused by acute fungal meningitis, from tainted medicine.
Ben Foutz is frustrated and angry that legislation in Congress to regulate pharmacies that make compound drugs is being held up. The bill, co-sponsored by 9th district Congressman Morgan Griffith from Southwest Virginia, passed the house but it's now stuck in the Senate, held up by Senator David Vitter who's tied an Affordable Health Care Act amendment to it.
"Now we have a Senator from a state that was not impacted directly that we know of with this past outbreak holding up legislation over Obamacare that has nothing to do with making compounded drugs safer for the public," Foutz said.
Griffith stopped by WDBJ7 on his way back from Washington, D.C. Friday evening. I'm hopeful it will pass, Congressman Griffith said.
If the Senate passes the bill with Vitter's amendment attached, President Obama is expected to veto it. If it passes without it, the President is expected to sign it, Griffith said.
Congressman Griffith said he's confident it will pass and that the legislation will provide more FDA oversight of compounding pharmacies. He said both parties and the FDA have worked out language in the bill that everyone agrees on.
The U.S. Senate is expected to take up the bill next week.