The pharmacy compounder in Framingham, Massachusetts that produced contaminated steroids last year has tried to lay the blame on UniClean, a company it hired to clean parts of its production area every month. The steroids were tainted with a virus that caused a widespread and deadly outbreak of fungal meningitis across the United States.
Last year, the New England Compounding Center custom-mixed and distributed to 23 states three batches of an 80mg/ml preservative-free steroid (methylprednisolone acetate) contaminated with a normally innocuous and very common fungus, Exserohilum rostratum. About 14,000 doses were administered to patients with back and joint pain. So far, the tainted injectables are held responsible for sickening over 650 people nationwide and killing 39. NECC has since closed, surrendered its license to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, recalled all its products, and filed for bankruptcy.
On January 4, the Boston Globe reported that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had received a quarterly filing Thursday by UniFirst Corp., UniClean's parent company, that brought up the subject. UniFirst said that the pharmaceutical compounding firm had demanded in a letter that UniFirst take legal responsibility for claims related to the deadly outbreak.
UniFirst spokesman Adam Soreff denied responsibility for NECC's day-to-day operations. He stated that his company contracted to send two technicians to NECC for 90 minutes each month to apply NECC's own cleaning solution to areas of the compounder's "clean room." UniClean also supplies clothing and services related to cleanrooms to other U.S. and international locations.
NECC may also have asked other companies to help shoulder the responsibility for meningitis claims. A spokesperson for the compounder could not supply further information Thursday. The federal Food and Drug Administration and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health both declined to comment at this time on the possible role of other companies in the tragedy.
- Steroid pharmacy files Chapter 11 bankruptcy Friday
- More contamination in steroid vials, say CDC and FDA
- Meningitis hearing expedited, NECC finances blocked
- The 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak: Whose fault?
- The 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak: Slow and deadly
- Congress investigates the meningitis outbreak
Based in Chicago, Sandy Dechert has covered the fungal meningitis outbreak for Examiner.com since it began. She has also reported on health care issues in the Presidential race, Hillary Clinton's recent illness, Legionnaire's disease and heat-related health problems last summer, Aimee Copeland's struggle with necrotizing fasciitis, and the procedure that saved the life of Good Morning America cohost Robin Roberts.
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