For the victims of the fungal meningitis outbreak of last year, the suffering has yet to end.
In addition to suffering from a painful and life-threatening illness, the victims of the meningitis outbreak have one more hurdle to jump: massive medical bills.
It was reported that many sufferers of the fungal meningitis outbreak that was the result of contaminated vials of injectable steroid have to sort through medical bills for medications and treatments that their insurers do not cover, such as MRIs that will detect if there are any spinal complications. Some of the powerful antifungal drugs were charged at $8000 per injection. Some patients needed up to three such shots per day.
The bills range from a few thousand dollars to more than $200,000. There are many lawsuits against the compounding pharmacy (New England Compounding Center) that manufactured and distributed the medication, but since the pharmacy declared bankruptcy, those lawsuits have been delayed for an indeterminate period of time. In the meantime, patients must struggle to cope with bills that they are far from able to afford.
Many of the patients aren’t out of the woods yet. Many still suffer from debilitating pain and lingering infections.
At St. Thomas Health, a Tennessee hospital and neurosurgical center that is treating many of the fungal meningitis victims, representatives say that they are working with patients and their insurers to offset some of the financial burden of the extensive treatments. However, since the medical center also administered the tainted epidural shots, it is the belief of many of the attorneys that the hospital should bear all of the responsibility. According to attorney Mark Chalos, “For the people who got sick from tainted injections at St. Thomas, St. Thomas is now charging tens of thousands of dollars to treat them.” Mr. Chalos contends that the medical center purchased inferior compounded medications at $6.60 per dose, and charged $1000; sometimes more.
The home care bills for many of the victims can exceed $7000 monthly. The antifungal treatments cause significant fatigue and hallucinations, even after treatments have stopped, since the medications take awhile to exit the system. Many patients continually suffer from severe back pain that renders them unable to drive or even care for themselves.
One patient, Amarjit Deol, who was admitted to the hospital after suffering partial blindness, loss of motor function and severe pain, was told she wasn’t allowed to leave until she paid the $950 for medications she would need for aftercare. Only after she negotiated a payment of approximately one third of the bill was she released.
To add insult to injury, Mrs. Deol received a letter from Medicare stating that it would recover the costs of the payments if she won any award from a claim against the compounding pharmacy or the medical center from which she received her epidural injections. To date, she has not even filed any lawsuits.
 Roche, Walter: Many Meningitis Victims Owe Tens of Thousands in Bills USA Today 4/3/2013 http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/04/03/fungal-meningitis-costs/2048843/