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Congress holds hearing on deadly meningitis outbreak

Photo of Drew Britcher

Congress recently held a two-day hearing on the meningitis outbreak that caused 32 deaths and more than 430 illnesses across the country. In New Jersey, the state has identified at least 18 cases of the illness.

"My family is bitter, we are angry, we are heartbroken and devastated," a victim's wife told Congress, asking it to "do something about the matter."

During the conference, members of Congress discussed whether to put federal restrictions on compounding pharmacies. Currently, it is unclear whether state or federal regulations guide non-traditional compounding centers like the New England Compounding Center pharmacy (NECC) in Massachusetts, which is responsible for the contaminated steroid. While state pharmacy boards typically supervise their actions, the FDA also has some authority.

The meningitis outbreak was a result of a contaminated steroid from the NECC. Last month, state and federal inspections found many potential contaminates at the compounding center, including standing water and mold. The NECC has also been investigated in the past for illnesses from injections as well as a different meningitis strain (in 2002). In 2003, the FDA warned state and federal officials that there was "the potential for serious public consequences if NECC's compounding practices, in particular those relating to sterile products, are not improved."

The warnings were not heeded. Now, the NECC has been forced to shut down its doors, and its owner and two of its pharmacists have lost their licenses. But that is simply not enough for the individuals who became ill from injections of the steroid or the families of those who lost their lives.

That is why families are asking Congress to act. They are also bringing lawsuits against the New England Compounding Center and other defendants, including suppliers and distributors of the drug.

If you or your loved one has been affected by the meningitis outbreak, you may be able to bring a lawsuit to recover compensation for your medical bills, pain and suffering, loss of income and other damages.

Source: News Channel 5, "Several testify at congressional hearing on meningitis outbreak," Nov. 14, 2012

Learn more about lawsuits involving medical negligence by visiting our web pages on medical malpractice.

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