The other shoe may be about to drop in the meningitis outbreak saga. Yesterday, strong indications arose that criminal charges may be in the offing against the New England Compounding Center, the pharmacy linked to the outbreak. And it also looks like the NECC could be in for legal problems beyond that outbreak.
The Boston Globe reports that criminal investigators from the FDA and the U.S. Attorney's office in Boston descended on the NECC yesterday morning.
Agents from the US Food and Drug Administration were at the offices of New England Compounding Center in Framingham Tuesday and worked into the evening. They wore blue jackets bearing the yellow letters “FDA OCI” -- FDA Office of Criminal Investigations -- as they went in and out of the brick office building on Waverly Street.However, a good indication that an investigation is at least in the preliminary stages came from WBZ-TV in Boston, which reports that the agents were there to serve search warrants.
A number of unmarked government cars were parked in the area.
FDA Spokesman Steven Immergut said the agents were there as part of the agency’s ongoing investigation into the outbreak, which is believed to be caused by contaminated steroids made by New England Compounding. He would not comment on whether the agency is conducting a criminal investigation.
US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz issued a statement Tuesday acknowledging her office’s involvement in the probe.
“I can confirm that this office and our law enforcement partners are investigating allegations concerning the New England Compounding Center. I think that it is entirely premature to suggest what the results of the investigation will be,” she said in the statement.
A spokesman for the FDA says the raid is part of their ongoing investigation during which they have been working closely with the CDC, several state health departments, and the Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy to, “fully investigate the scope and cause of the outbreak of fungal meningitis.”Additionally, it looks like the NECC may have been handling drugs it wasn't legally supposed to be handling. Congressman Ed Markey, whose district includes the NECC, got word that several of the substances recalled by the NECC include controlled substances. One problem--the NECC was not registered with the DEA. Markey wrote a letter to the attorney general asking for an investigation. According to the letter, the NECC appears to have handled cocaine, morphine, fentanyl and other DEA-listed controlled substances.
This only looks like the tip of the iceberg.