A federal judge has ruled any criminal case against a Framingham specialty pharmacy New England Compounding Center (NECC) would have priority over the numerous civil suits.
The most recent numbers have 36 people dead and more than 510 infected with meningitis linked to NECC.
U.S. District Judge Dennis Saylor ordered those associated with the Framingham pharmacy linked to the national fungal meningitis outbreak not to tamper with or attempt to destroy anything within the company’s walls — or even stored on personal cellphones and home computers, reported the Boston Herald.
The judge also rejected arguments by attorneys for the pharmacy, its owners and an affiliate company to delay the start of civil proceedings until a panel of judges in Washington meets early next year to determine how to handle the roughly 70 suits filed in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Tennessee and Michigan, reported Reuters.
“I don’t want two or three or four months to go by with nothing happening,” said U.S. District Court Judge Dennis Saylor at a hearing in Boston, reported InsuranceJournal.com
The needs of lawyers in the civil cases would fall behind those of federal and state health authorities and any criminal investigators, he added.
Attorney Kimberly Dougherty, who represents an alleged injection victim from South Carolina, told Saylor she wants to be able to gather air quality samples, swabs of the pharmacy’s equipment and drill inside the walls for mold by mid-December, reported the Boston Herald.
“There may be a grand jury investigation, I don’t know, but there is certainly a potential criminal investigation overlaid on this,” Saylor said.
NECC owner Barry Cadden took the fifth in the congressional hearing.
Just before Thanksgiving, a
In a congressional report, the FDA considered New England Compounding Center to be a pharmacy in 2003. Pharmacies are regulated by the state, drug manufacturers are regulated by the FDA.
Congressman Ed Markey, who represents Framingham, is the senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
He said NECC fell into a "blackhole" between federal and state regulators and became a "compounding manufacturer" and not a compounding pharmacy.
The two Washington committees may create legislation to shift oversight of compounding pharmacies from states to the FDA.
Also in November, Massachusetts fired the director of its Board of Pharmacy after he failed to investigate a complaint against New England Compounding Center.
The FDA released a list of customers, who received products from NECC in Framingham on or after May 21.