NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

December 5, 2012

Official: Meningitis outbreak could have been prevented

BOSTON — As the state’s pharmacy board considers final regulations to improve oversight of retail and compounding pharmacies, some in the industry believe it was the lack of enforcement of existing rules that led to a deadly fungal meningitis outbreak.

“In retrospect, we feel this situation could have been prevented if either the FDA or the Board of Pharmacy enforced the regulations already on the books,” Todd Brown, executive director of the Massachusetts Independent Pharmacists Association, told the News Service yesterday after testifying before the board.

Brown and David Miller, of the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists, offered feedback yesterday to the Board of Registration in Pharmacy on emergency regulations put in place Nov. 1 following the linkage of the meningitis outbreak to tainted steroids produced by the New England Compounding Center in Framingham.

Only three people testified on the regulations that apply to an industry that has come under scrutiny in Massachusetts and at the federal level in the wake of the outbreak.

Brown called it “ironic” that a Massachusetts pharmacy would be responsible given the relatively strict regulations already in place, and he called NECC an “outlier” that flaunted the state’s regulations and yet their violations went undetected.

Board president James DeVita and counsel Heather Engman alone were on hand to collect public comment on the regulations adopted at the direction of Gov. Deval Patrick in early November. The state at that time also permanently revoked NECC’s pharmacy license and Patrick established a special commission to report back before the end of the year on legislative steps the state could take to improve its oversight and pharmacy licensing laws and regulations.

The board also began periodic, unannounced inspections of compounding labs in the state.

While the regulations governing Massachusetts-based pharmacies are already strong, according to Brown and Miller, both said they had concerns that there was no registration process for out-of-state pharmacies doing business in Massachusetts. Georgia and Pennsylvania are the only other two states that don’t require out-of-state registration.

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