Pharmaceutical compounding company New England Compounding Center (NECC), a producer of the steroid methylprednisolone acetate, is seen in Framingham, Mass. The drug has been linked to a rare form of meningitis that has so far killed eight people. The company, which earlier recalled three lots of the painkiller, has suspended its operations while an investigation proceeds. Federal officials raided the facility Tuesday. (Photo : Reuters)
Federal agents raided a New England pharmaceutical company at the center of the deadly meningitis outbreak, federal law enforcement officials confirmed Tuesday.
Agents from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration searched the Framingham, Mass.-based facility of pharmaceutical company the New England Compounding Center (NECC), with support from local law enforcement officials, local police told Reuters Tuesday.
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A statement from U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Massachusetts released Tuesday confirmed the investigation.
"I can confirm that this office and our law enforcement partners are investigating allegations concerning the New England Compounding Center," Ortiz's statement read. "I think that it is entirely premature to suggest what the results of the investigation will be."
The pharmaceutical company has been at the center of the recent widespread outbreak of meningitis that has caused 15 deaths among 233 cases reported 15 states--including 6 deaths and 59 cases in Tennessee and 3 dead in 47 cases in Michigan--according to the latest statistics from the U.S. Center for Disease Control.
The cases have been linked to fungal infections liked to steroid injections shipped by NECC to at least 23 states. The company-which began recalling its products Oct. 6-expanded its recall on Saturday to all products compounded and distributed at its Framingham facility
A lawyer for NECC, told Reuters on Tuesday that the raid was unnecessary and that "asking would have produced the same result."
"It is difficult to understand the purpose of this search, since we have been clear that (NECC) would provide, and has provided, anything requested. We've been clear that warrants weren't needed," Paul Cirel, of the firm Collora LLP in Boston, told Reuters in a statement.
Meanwhile, lawsuits against the Framingham company have already begun, according to the Legal Examiner in Cleveland, Ohio, as Minnesota resident Barbe Puro--who was one of the five cases reported in Minnesota--filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of all infected Minnesota residents who became sick after receiving the steroid injections from the company.
Tennessee resident Colette Rybinski, whose husband, Thomas, died on September 29 after being injected on July 30, is also suing the company for $15 million in damages, the Legal Examiner.
Related lawsuits against the company have been filed in Michigan and New Jersey--which had 10 known cases of meningitis reported--by people who received steroid injections using NECC's products.
U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass, is asking the federal Justice Department for the FDA to investigate whether the Framingham company violated any federal regulations, according to Fox News.
"This is a matter that I believe requires further investigation by the (Drug Enforcement Administration) to ensure that this facility, already believed to have broken Massachusetts state law, has not also skirted federal law related to controlled substances," Markey told the Justice Department in a letter.