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Head of pharmacy board ousted after 31 steroid-related deaths

Last month on our Joliet medical malpractice law blog, we had mentioned that the fungal meningitis outbreak was linked to tainted medications that were manufactured at a pharmacy in Massachusetts.

Recent reports now claim that the fungal meningitis outbreak has resulted in at least 420 infections and 31 deaths across 19 states, including Illinois. It has also been reported that the director of the board responsible for regulating pharmacies in Massachusetts has been fired as a result of the deadly outbreak.

Medication errors are preventable. Doctors and pharmacists are responsible for prescribing and distributing correct doses and medications to patients. And drug manufacturers, including compounding pharmacies like the one that is responsible for causing the meningitis outbreak, are responsible for safely manufacturing medications for consumers.

According to reports, the director of the board responsible for regulating pharmacies in Massachusetts was fired for his failure to take action after health officials in Colorado expressed concerns about the practices at the New England Compounding Center (NECC) where the tainted steroid injections were produced.

The director should have looked into the matter, but he did not. An interim commissioner of a state health department called the director’s failure to investigate the complaint “incomprehensible.”

As a compounding pharmacy, NECC was licensed to produce medications on a patient-specific basis only after receiving valid prescriptions for patient-specific medications. But in July 2012, Colorado’s health department expressed concerns that the company was distributing medications to hospitals without receiving prescriptions first.

Compounding pharmacies are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration like other drug manufacturers are. Instead, compounding pharmacies are mainly monitored by state agencies. Some believe that better oversight and clearer rules could help make compounding pharmacies safer while also making it easier for regulators to detect violations before major medication errors are made.

Editors of the New England Journal of Medicine assert that giving the FDA more extensive authority over compounding pharmacies will increase safety, noting that state-based control is “clearly inadequate to protect public health.”

Source: MedPage Today, “Meningitis: Head of Pharmacy Board Fired,” Michael Smith, Nov. 8, 2012

  • Our firm has experience assisting Illinois families harmed by medical malpractice, including medication errors. To learn more about our firm and practice, please visit our Will County medical malpractice page.

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