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Hygiene lapses found at Massachusetts compounding pharmacy

At this point, nearly every Massachusetts resident has likely heard of the horrific meningitis outbreak that has resulted from a steroid produced at the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Massachusetts. It is certain that a string of lawsuits for pharmaceutical malpractice will be filed against this company, since over 300 people in 17 states have contracted fungal meningitis or joint infections from the tainted shots, and 24 have died. It is expected that more victims will still be diagnosed with this rare form of fungal meningitis as over 17,600 vials of the pharmacy's compound were distributed to 76 clinics in 23 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Two days after the first outbreak of meningitis was reported in Tennessee, the Massachusetts Department of Health conducted an inspection of the facility. The inspection revealed numerous signs of negligence. There were dirty floors and floor mats soiled with debris right next to sterile drug mixing areas. The inspection also revealed a leak from a nearby boiler which could ostensibly create the conditions for the growth of contaminants in the environment. The fungus that has been found in the steroid is one that is found in soil and plants. State officials also reported that certain machines designed to kill potential contagions, called autoclaves, did not appear to have been consistently used and maintained, and that some of the vials were shipped without any sterility testing beforehand.

One positive outcome of this tragedy is that it has prompted surprise inspections of other Massachusetts compounding pharmacies. It has also generated proposals for stricter regulation of these types of facilities.

All victims of pharmaceutical malpractice should act swiftly to protect their rights to recovery. Damages to compensate a victim of medical malpractice can include payment of all medical bills, payment of all future medical care, loss of wages and compensation for pain and suffering. In the tragic case of a death resulting from pharmaceutical malpractice, immediate family members are entitled to recover loss of consortium and loss of future wages as well as other damages.

Source: ABC News, "Meningitis Outbreak: Pharmacy Inspection Reveals Drug-Safety Lapses," Katie Moisse, Oct. 24, 2012

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