By: Irvin Jackson | Published: December 24th, 2013
Parties involved in NECC fungal meningitis litigation, stemming from an outbreak linked to contaminated epidural steroid injections distributed last year by one compounding pharmacy, indicate that a fund could be established for victims that provides more than $100 million in compensation to be paid out.
The New England Compounding Center (NECC) and attorneys representing individuals who were diagnosed with fungal meningitis or other infections announced the settlement agreement this week, with the preliminary details being released before a January 10 status conference scheduled in the federal court system, where several hundred cases are currently centralized before one judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
The NECC fungal meningitis outbreak started in the summer of 2012, with new cases of infection continuing to surface for nearly a year. More than 60 people were killed after receiving the tainted steroid injections and more than 700 people were sickened nationwide, including cases of fungal meningitis, injection-site infections and other health problems.
Investigators traced the outbreak back to epidural steroid injections distributed by NECC to hospitals and pain management centers nationwide. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 14,000 patients in the U.S. were exposed to the tainted shots, which in some case had visible particles of fungus in them.
After an epidural steroid injection recall in October 2012, which later expanded to all of drugs compounded by NECC, the pharmacy was forced to cease operations and its compounding license was revoked.
NECC was eventually driven into bankruptcy under the weight of litigation and fines faced, and the incident resulted in new regulations for compounding pharmacies nationwide.
Despite the NECC fungal meningitis settlement agreement and investigations into the company’s operations, which uncovered unsterile drug manufacturing conditions that included the exact same strains of fungus and a long track record of violations that went unpunished, the former owners of the compounding pharmacy continue to deny responsibility for the illnesses and deaths.
In a press release issued by the company’s attorneys this week, the NECC owners said they agreed to the settlement to “play a major role in establishing a fund for people who died or suffered as a result of this tragic outbreak,”
Attorneys for the plaintiffs say that the settlement, if finalized, will not end the NECC litigation, as there are additional parties that may be liable for the injuries suffered by people who received the contaminated injections, including pain clinics and hospitals where the shots were given to patients, as well as the doctors who administered or advised patients to have them.
In the federal court system, there are currently 310 fungal meningitis lawsuits centralized before U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV, who is presiding over an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, that has been established to coordiante pretrial proceedings in the case.