and most products used were prepackaged, prefilled cartridges, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The majority of these products (66%) were THC-containing cartridges marketed under the brand name. Dank cartridges are available at legal dispensaries and online in areas where they are legal. The Dank company posted a statement on its website warning buyers about fake cartridges and showing images of genuine cartridges. However, 89% of the cartridges were obtained on the street, from dealers, online, or from friends or social contacts, Jennifer Layden, MD, of the Illinois Department of Public Health said during a CDC telebriefing.
The illness was first recognized in Wisconsin and Illinois. Marijuana is illegal in Wisconsin; Illinois licensed recreational marijuana in 2009.
Other commonalties among cases have also emerged,, deputy director of CDC, said during the call. More than two-thirds of the 805 confirmed or probable cases were male, and the median age was 23 years. The illness crosses age barriers, she said. About 62% were 18-24 years of age, and 54% under age 25. However, among the 12 deaths so far reported, the median age was 50 years. The age range was wide, from 27 to 71 years. Dr. Schuchat said data about medical comorbidities potentially linking the deaths is not yet available, although it is part of the ongoing investigation.
Other clinical commonalities included intensive use of THC-containing products and, in a small number of cases, concomitant use of benzodiazepenes, opioids, and narcotics.
Cases have now emerged in 46 states and in the U.S. Virgin Islands, although the number reported each week is dropping. However, this decrease may not represent a drop in newly occurring cases, but instead reflect delays in clinical recognition or reporting to local health departments, Dr. Schuchat said.
Regardless of the recent decline in reported cases, she said, the epidemic is serious, far reaching, and ongoing.
“I want to stress that this is a serious, life-threatening disease occurring mostly in otherwise healthy young people. These illnesses and deaths are occurring in the context of a dynamic marketplace with mix of products with mixes of ingredients, including potentially illicit substances. Users don’t know what’s in them and cannot tell from the ingredients listed on the packaging.”