BRENTWOOD, Tenn. — Diana Reed tried massage and acupuncture, but neither eased her neck pain. She may have injured herself while helping her husband, Wayne, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease, in and out of his wheelchair.
“Diana kind of became Wayne’s arms, legs and voice,” her brother, Bob Bergeson, said.
Mrs. Reed, 56, a healthy, vigorous woman who ran or swam every day, decided to try a series of epidural steroid injections for her neck trouble. She had been laid off from her job at a nonprofit group and wanted the treatments before her health insurance ran out.
It was a decision that ended her life. She died on Oct. 3, one of more than 130 people to have contracted meningitis in a national outbreak from a tainted drug used in spinal injections for back and neck pain. So far, 12 have died.
The drug has been recalled, but still more people are likely to become ill in the coming weeks, because the incubation period can be longer than a month. About 13,000 people injected with the drug are anxiously waiting to see if symptoms develop. The product is a steroid called methylprednisolone, which was contaminated with one or more types of fungus. It was made by a pharmacy in Massachusetts, the New England Compounding Center, and shipped to 23 states.
The company has shut down, and Massachusetts health officials said Wednesday that they had extended their investigation to Ameridose, another drug manufacturer in the state that is partly owned by Barry Cadden, who was the chief pharmacist at New England Compounding.
Mr. Cadden surrendered his pharmacy license this week, state officials said. Massachusetts has just five inspectors for more than a thousand compounding pharmacies that make drugs.
Mrs. Reed’s family members said they were still in shock. Other than having a sore neck, she had been in perfect health. “Why did she die?” her husband asked.