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Cleaners Blamed in Fungal Meningitis Outbreak

Filed January 7th, 2013 admin

The New England Compounding Center (NECC) is putting pressure on the cleaning services at UniFrirst Corp. to share blame for the fungal meningitis outbreak that has swept across the nation. To date, the tainted steroid injections have led to more than 600 illnesses and 39 deaths in 19 states.

UniFirst provided once-a-month cleaning services to the Framingham, Massachusetts lab and the NECC is blaming the services for the outbreak. The NECC sent a letter to UniFirst, demanding it compensate the pharmacy for the meningitis outbreak, according to a UniFirst filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Yahoo News said. UniFirst denied any wrongdoing, saying that, based on its preliminary review of this matter, the company believes that NECC’s claims are without merit.

The NECC recalled 17,000 vials of tainted steroid injections on September 26 and followed by recalling all drugs and shutting down on October 6, Yahoo News said. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) initiated an investigation into the NECC’s practices following the outbreak and found that a quarter of the steroid injections in one bin at the plant contained “greenish black foreign matter.” The agency also found multiple clean rooms contained bacterial or mold overgrowth, Yahoo News said. UniFirst’s claims its UniClean business cleaned portions of the NECC clean rooms to the pharmacy’s specifications and used NECC’s cleansing solutions. The company provided two technicians once a month for about an hour and a half, Yahoo News said.

Compounding pharmacies are typically overseen by state pharmacy boards rather than the FDA because they are relatively small. However, the FDA issued a warning letter to NECC in 2006, accusing the pharmacy of mass-producing a topical anesthetic cream, and jeopardizing another drug’s sterility by repackaging it, Yahoo News said.

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