Thursday, November 08, 2012

Coffey canned

More die in fungal meningitis outbreak; state pharmacy chief fired

Cj Gunther / EPA

A Food and Drug Administration agent enters the offices of New England Compounding Center, a pharmaceutical company in Framingham, Mass., on Oct. 16. The company made steroids blamed for killing 31 people and making 424 sick.

By Maggie Fox, NBC News

Massachusetts officials have fired the director of the state’s pharmacy board and suspended its attorney for failing to alert them that the company at the center of an outbreak of fungal meningitis was making and distributing drugs in mass quantities even though it wasn’t licensed to do so, the Boston Globe reported Wednesday.

Federal health officials say the outbreak of fungal meningitis traced to contaminated pain injections from the pharmacy has killed 31 people. They said 424 people have been confirmed sick in 19 states, including 10 who don’t have meningitis but who have infections in the ankle, shoulder or other joints.

Two congressional committees have scheduled hearings into the outbreak for next week, and will forcibly bring in the chief pharmacist at the Massachusetts pharmacy at the center of the outbreak. Meanwhile, officials have given details of the outbreak in Tennessee, where the infections were first noticed and where the alert first went out.

The Globe cited sources close to the investigation as saying James Coffey, director of the state’s pharmacy board, was fired and Susan Manning, attorney for the board, was on administrative leave. It said the Colorado Board of Pharmacy told both Coffey and the U.S Food and Drug Administration that the New England Compounding Center was distributing drugs in bulk. Compounding pharmacies like NECC are only supposed to custom mix drugs to order for specific prescriptions.

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