Rhode Island spa kept drugs recalled by pharmacy tied to meningitis deaths, state officials say

A Rhode Island spa kept products that were recalled by a Framingham, Mass., pharmacy after injectable steroids it prepared were blamed for a national meningitis outbreak, prompting the state Department of Health to issue a cease and desist order and suspend the license of a nurse at the facility.

Gerald Dornhecker, a registered nurse at Skin Essentials Spa in North Providence, on two occasions told officials with the US Food and Drug Administration that the facility did not have any products made by New England Compounding Center. But inspectors found the pharmacy’s products in the spa’s exam rooms in late October and again on Nov. 23, according to a suspension order issued by the state nursing board.

The board suspended Dornhecker’s license Tuesday and will hold a hearing on Dec. 10.

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Steroids produced at New England Compounding are thought to have sickened at least 541 people, including 36 who died. Three other Rhode Island facilities had used the contaminated steroids before they were recalled. There are two cases of likely fungal meningitis in the state, and a third patient had an infection near the injection site, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The North Providence spa did not receive drugs from the batches that were tainted, said Dara Chadwick, spokeswoman for the Rhode Island Department of Health. But the pharmacy recalled all of its products in early October. It is not clear which drugs the spa had or whether any patients received the drugs.

“No patients [from the spa] have become sick, that we’re aware of,” Chadwick said.

The department also ordered Dr. Karen Grande, the spa’s medical director, to stop using New England Compounding products and notify all patients who were treated with them before or after the Oct. 4 recall date.

Messages left at the spa and a number listed for Dornhecker were not returned Wednesday evening.

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