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More Massachusetts pharmacy companies closed; staff changes at Board of Pharmacy

Dec 7, 2012

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts continues to respond legislatively to the deadly meningitis outbreak earlier this year that claimed 36 lives and sickened hundreds by announcing sanctions against three more pharmacy companies operating in the state. 

According to a Reuters report, Massachusetts announced the closure of one pharmacy and the partial closures of two more as it continued to crack down on companies like them operating in the state. The crackdown was sparked after a deadly outbreak of fungal meningitis was linked to New England Compounding Center, a Framingham company that produced contaminated vials of methylprednisone acetate. The vials were tainted with a fungus that led to the oubreak.

As many as 14,000 vials were shipped from NECC's facility earlier this year and reached more than 70 pain management and health care facilities in 23 states. Thousands of the vials were dispensed before Food and Drug Administration testing on sample vials detected the presence of the toxin. By then, widespread reports of fungal meningitis were filtering from different parts of the country. At the root of the shipments was NECC.

Investigations showed that conditions inside NECC were unfit for processing pharmaceuticals and the operation was closed entirely as the inquiries continued. Those investigations shows that officials with NECC, and its sister company Ameridose, were serving as part of Massachusetts' Board of Pharmacy, the regulators that had been tasked with oversight of companies like NECC and others.

Lax oversight on the part of Massachusetts' Board of Pharmacy likely led to slipshod conditions at NECC and other pharmacies that have since been either closed, partially closed, or put on notice since the outbreak. On Nov. 21, Oncomed Pharmaceuticals was closed entirely by the state. Officials were "concerned about how it stored chemotherapy drugs" and ordered the pharmacy company closed. Undergoing partial closures were Pallimed Pharmaceuticals and Whittier Pharmacist. Both those locations were closed amid concerns over the sterility at each.

Each company has opportunities to reopen if they can raise their standards to meet those imposed by the state. 

To ensure that the state's Board of Pharmacy is properly tasked with oversight of these companies in the future, the state has appointed new members to the group to alleviate it of any political interference that likely allowed these companies to operate under these conditions and put the public's safety at risk.

In a statement from the Board's Interim Commissioner announcing the new appointments it was said, "These respected health care professionals will use their experience to bring change to the Board of Pharmacy to enhance our oversight of this industry. We expect additional changes to the board after the Commission on Pharmacy Compounding issues its recommendations to Governor Deval Patrick at the end of the month."

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