The victims of last year's meningitis outbreak got some good news this holiday season. The New England Compounding Center, the compounding pharmacy whose slipshod practices caused the outbreak, agreed to set up a $100 million compensation fund for the victims.
Attorney William Baldiga said the agreement was reached among creditors, bankruptcy trustee Paul D. Moore and the owners and insurers of the New England Compounding Center. The deal needs approval from a bankruptcy judge and likely will be filed in the next few weeks.Barry and Lisa Cohen, the husband-and-wife team who owned NECC, will put some of their own money into the fund. They deny any wrongdoing, even though a state inspection revealed glaring problems with safety and sterilization. A criminal investigation is also underway.
The company, based in Framingham, just west of Boston, gave up its license and filed for bankruptcy protection after it was flooded with hundreds of lawsuits from people who received tainted steroid injections.
Baldiga represents the creditors' committee set up by the bankruptcy court. Most of the creditors are victims who have filed lawsuits.
About 750 people in 20 states have developed fungal meningitis, an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, or other infections; 64 have died.
The infections were linked to more than 17,600 doses of methylprednisolone acetate steroid injections used to treat back and joint pain that were shipped by NECC to 23 states. FDA investigators last Oct. found mold and fungal contamination in vials of the drugs, and areas used to prepare sterile drugs at the facility.
Michigan, Tennessee and Indiana were hit the hardest by the infections.
Baldiga thinks the fund will grow considerably in the next few weeks as anyone else who may be sued chips in. Nonetheless, this is some badly needed good news.