Pharmacy At Center Of Meningitis Outbreak Ordered To Shut Down

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There were dirty floors and fungus at the Massachusetts pharmacy that distributed tens of thousands of contaminated steroid shots. Nearly two dozen people have died from meningitis linked to the shots and now that facility is ordered to shut down.

Mike Schuh has the disturbing findings there.

Health officials say the New England Compounding Center wasn’t sterilizing or testing its medications before shipping them out.

There’s a long history of violations for the Framingham, Mass. pharmacy at the heart of the nationwide meningitis outbreak.

“It is more than a little troubling,” said Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.

Tuesday afternoon, Patrick announced the state will revoke the pharmacy’s license.

“Our investigators documented several health and safety deficiencies related to the practice of pharmacy,” said Dr. Madeleine Biondolillo, director of the Bureau for Health Care, Safety & Quality.

Documents obtained by CBS show problems with contaminated medications in 2003 and unsanitary conditions in 2006–unsanitary conditions like visible black specks of fungus in steroids, dirty floor mats in the lab and a leaky boiler in a supposedly clean room. But what’s most troubling: inspectors checked the facility just last year, yet they somehow missed warning signs that NECC was illegally mass-producing drugs. Some of those drugs are now connected to the deadly meningitis outbreak.

Industry experts say federal and state regulators should have paid more attention.

“The FDA was involved, the Board of Pharmacy was involved. Certainly room for blame for both organizations here,” said Todd Brown, Northeastern University.

The meningitis outbreak has sickened nearly 310 people nationwide, including Patricia Pugh, a Harford County mother of five.

More than 17,000 vials of NECC’s steroid injections went to clinics in 23 states. All of those sickened–and the 23 people who have died in the outbreak–received those contaminated steroid shots in their joints.

The New England Compounding Center says it is cooperating with the ongoing investigation.

Massachusetts’ governor is vowing to change how the Department of Health oversees pharmacies. He has ordered regulators to start conducting surprise inspections at pharmacies.

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