On Thursday, the office of the Massachusetts Attorney General announced that they are probing the pharmacy company at the center of the U.S. meningitis outbreak that has already killed 14 people. The outbreak has so far infected 170 persons, according to the latest update of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Brad Puffer, a spokesman for Mass. Attorney General Martha Coakley said, “We are absolutely engaged with federal and state authorities to determine what led to the distribution of these unsafe drugs … Once we have identified the conduct and circumstances that led to this tragedy, we will identify any potential legal action.
On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that as many as 14,000 people are possibly at risk of contracting meningitis as they have been treated with the potentially contaminated steroids distributed by the New England Compounding Center. Both federal and state authorities have linked the meningitis outbreak to drugs distributed by the NECC, which is based in Framingham, Massachusetts. The company shut down last week after issuing a recall of all its products.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Massachusetts authorities, the company seems to have violated its state licensing requirements. How a pharmaceutical company, despite the presence of heavily salaried federal and state regulatory authorities doing their jobs, could continue to operate without fulfilling licensing requirements was not immediately apparent.
Also on Thursday, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal called for a federal criminal investigation of the meningitis outbreak and asked Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct a criminal inquiry into the matter. Blumenthal said, “The fact that death and serious injuries resulted from the potential violations of law certainly is relevant, and the misstatements or fraud could constitute a violation of federal mail and wire fraud prohibitions.”