Victims of Fungal Meningitis Outbreak Still Waiting for Justice

Posted at 10:17 PM, Jul 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-29 23:29:29-04

Nearly four years after more than 100 Tennesseans were sickened during a nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis, some are still waiting for justice.

A Massachusetts couple pleaded guilty Friday in the federal investigation of the now closed New England Compounding Center (NECC).  Cara Conigliaro and her husband Douglas were majority shareholders at the center that was accused of producing contaminated steroids that killed 64 people in seven states and sickened hundreds more. 

The couple wasn’t charged with the outbreak, but with trying to hide assets when the company went bankrupt.  Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 1.

Meanwhile, Nashville resident Joan Peay, is one of many victims still waiting to receive any kind of money from lawsuits filed against the NECC. 

“It’s like nobody cares,” said Peay.  “That’s how we feel.  Nobody cares.”

After receiving a tainted epidural steroid shot for back pain at the St. Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center in September of 2012, Peay was diagnosed with fungal meningitis.  After surviving one round, she relapsed and experienced a second case a year later.  She said her recovery took two full years, and estimated her out of pocket medical costs were more than $5,600.

She filed a lawsuit against the NECC hoping to recoup some of that money, but is still waiting.

“It’s really frustrating for the victims for this to go on and on,” said Peay.

Peay said she continues to monitor the latest developments on the NECC and was frustrated to hear the Conigliaro’s could get away without any time in jail.

“The people who caused all this are getting special treatment, and we’re not,” said Peay.  “I would like to see the Massachusetts government and the federal government treat us like we count.  They don’t do that.”

Peay said overall she is feeling better, but still lives with the effects of the infection.  She believes it impacted her memory, and said she now has to wear a hearing aid.  She also said she is frustrated doctors are often reluctant to give her pain medication that would help her, out of fear she would develop an addiction.

The outbreak killed 16 Tennesseans and sickened 153 others.