Meningitis outbreak: Massachusetts pharmacy raided by federal investigators


The outbreak of fungal meningitis has been traced to the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Massachusetts.


Jared Wickerham

Federal agents from the US Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday searched the Massachusetts pharmacy at the center of the deadly meningitis outbreak that has already killed more than a dozen people and affected more than 200 others.

The FDA investigation came as two members of Congress asked the US Department of Justice on Tuesday to investigate whether the pharmacy, which distributed contaminated steroid shots resulting in over 233 cases of fungal meningitis, violated any federal laws or regulations.

According to The New York Times, the fact that investigators searched the New England Compounding Center (NECC), is an indication that the federal government is building a case against the company.

BBC News reported that complaints against NECC had been filed in both 2002 and 2003, and according to the Associated Press, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said last week that the pharmaceutical company may have misled regulators and "done work beyond the scope of its state license." 

However, federal officials warned that the public should not jump to conclusions. “I think that it is entirely premature to suggest what the results of the investigation will be," said US Attorney Carmen Ortiz, Reuters reported.  

The CDC has compiled a full list of the facilities that carried the contaminated vials. It also updated the death toll on Wednesday, to 19 people killed by the national outbreak. Four more deaths were confirmed in the last 24 hours, according to Reuters.

Two of the deaths were in Tennessee, the hardest hit with eight deaths, while Virginia and Florida reported one death each.

The number of new cases of meningitis also rose by 14 on Wednesday, totaling 245 infected people, the CDC said.

Steroid shots produced by NECC were shipped to nearly 76 medical facilities in 23 states, and health authorities are scrambling to contact the nearly 14,000 patients at risk, said Reuters.