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Owner of Meningitis-Linked Pharmacy Declines to Testify Before Congress
Date:11/14/2012

By Steven Reinberg and Margaret Steele
HealthDay Reporters

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 14 (HealthDay News) -- The owner of the Massachusetts specialty pharmacy implicated in the meningitis outbreak that has killed 32 people declined to testify Wednesday before a Congressional committee investigating the matter, the Associated Press reported.

After a series of questions from members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Barry Cadden, co-founder of the New England Compounding Center, said: "Under advice of counsel, I respectfully decline to answer under basis of my constitutional rights and privileges, including the Fifth Amendment."

The committee hearing is focused on whether the outbreak, which has also sickened 438 people, could have been prevented.

Also expected to speak Wednesday is U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. She is expected to tell the committee that new laws are needed to give her agency more legal authority and funding to oversee so-called compounding pharmacies, like the one in Massachusetts at the center of the deadly outbreak, the AP reported.

Compounding pharmacies combine, mix or alter ingredients to create drugs to meet the specific needs of individual patients. Such custom-made drugs may include a smaller dose, for example, or the removal of an ingredient that might trigger an allergy in a patient, according to the FDA.

Compounding pharmacies aren't subject to the same FDA oversight as regular drug manufacturers.

The New England Compounding Center in Framingham was the source of the tainted steroid injections, which are typically used for back and joint pain. The company has ceased operations since the meningitis outbreak first surfaced early last month.

Meningitis is inflammation of the lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Infected patients have developed a range of symptoms approximately one to four weeks following t
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