June 19, 2013
Feds raid Massachusetts lab tied to meningitis outbreak
Federal agents on Tuesday raided the Massachusetts pharmacy linked to a meningitis outbreak that has killed 15 people and sickened more than 200 others, federal prosecutors said.
Agents from the US Food and Drug Administration searched the New England Compounding Center (NECC) in the Boston suburb of Framingham, with officers from the local police department on site providing support, Framingham police said.
Carmen Ortiz, US Attorney for Massachusetts, said: "I can confirm that this office and our law enforcement partners are investigating allegations concerning the New England Compounding Center."
Ortiz cautioned it was "entirely premature" to speculate about what might be uncovered.
Officials from NECC did not immediately respond to phone calls or emails seeking comment.
The raid came as a leading US lawmaker called for an investigation of whether NECC violated federal laws covering potentially addictive drugs, a day after the health scare widened to new medications.
The US meningitis outbreak continues to grow and has so far killed 15 people and infected 231, according to a tally from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday.
"We will see more patients reporting in ill and we'll have to treat many more," Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, said on "CBS This Morning."
The FDA on Monday widened its investigation of the cause of the fungal meningitis outbreak to other drugs made by the NECC.
Nearly 14,000 people nationwide are at risk of infection because they received injections from suspect steroid medications shipped to 76 facilities in 23 states.
Another 19 people were reported stricken with fungal meningitis on Tuesday. The 231 total does not include two people who have a non-meningitis fungal infection from injections in their joints (as opposed to back injections), so the total of infections reached 233.
In Washington, Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Edward Markey, a senior member of the committee that oversees business, called on the Justice Department to investigate whether NECC violated federal laws designed to stem illegal activity in controlled drugs.
The NECC already faces multiple investigations by the FDA and several states, but Markey's request could launch an even more serious probe involving the Drug Enforcement Agency, which oversees sales of potentially addictive, or "controlled," drugs.