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Mass. Launches Criminal Probe of Firm Linked to Meningitis Outbreak: Report
Date:10/25/2012

By Steven Reinberg and Margaret Steele
HealthDay Reporters

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Massachusetts officials said Tuesday that they have launched a criminal investigation into the specialty pharmacy at the center of the fungal meningitis outbreak that has now sickened 317 people in 17 states and killed 24.

State inspectors said they found unsanitary conditions that included black specks of fungus in steroids made at the New England Compounding Center, CBS News reported.

And state regulators have voted to permanently revoke the pharmacy's license, the Worcester Business Journal reported Wednesday.

The inspectors' preliminary investigation also revealed that the company distributed drugs before the return of tests to check for sterility. They added that the company functioned as a drug manufacturer, producing drugs for broad use, rather than filling individual prescriptions for individual doctors, in violation of its state license, CBS News reported.

The network also said the inspectors found dirty floor mats, a leaky boiler, inadequate sterilization of medications and improper testing of laboratory equipment.

The company said it was cooperating with investigators, CBS said.

According to published reports, state records showed that the New England Compounding Center was plagued by problems as far back as 2006.

Those records, obtained by the Associated Press under a public documents request, showed there was evidence of inadequate contamination control and no written standard operating procedures for using equipment, among other problems, at the facility.

Those problems were corrected that year, the AP reported.

The New England Compounding Center is what's known as a compounding pharmacy. These pharmacies combine, mix or alter ingredients to create specific drugs to meet the specific needs of individual patients, according
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