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New England Compounding Sued Over Shot Meningitis Risk

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Oct. 13 (Bloomberg) -- New England Compounding Pharmacy Inc. was sued by a woman who received a steroid shot that was recalled because it was potentially contaminated with a fungus putting recipients at risk for meningitis.

The lawsuit in federal court in St. Paul, Minnesota, was filed by Barbe Puro, who received injections of the steroid methylprednisolone acetate, made by Framingham, Massachusetts-based New England Compounding, to ease chronic back pain, according to the complaint.

About 14,000 people who received pain-relieving steroid shots may be at risk for meningitis because of a fungal contamination that has led to the deaths of 14 people, according to U.S. regulators. There are 184 confirmed infections traced to vials from a pharmacy in Framingham that mixed the steroid and sold it to 75 hospitals and clinics in 23 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday.

The suit seeks compensation for the sale of the “defective and dangerously contaminated steroid” by New England Compounding Center, a unit of New England Compounding Pharmacy, which has caused Puro and others “bodily harm, emotional distress, other personal injuries, and to incur medical and other expenses,” according to the complaint filed Oct. 11. Puro’s lawyers also seek class-action, or group, status to represent others affected by the contaminated steroids.

Tainted Steroid

Reuters reported today that NECC sold medication without gaining individual proof of prescriptions, citing e-mails it obtained. More than a dozen e-mails also showed the Framingham, Massachusetts-based company sought to win bulk orders from physicians, the news service said. The company declined to comment to Reuters.

Injections of the tainted steroid -- an epidural shot used to treat neck and back pain -- were given starting May 21, the Atlanta-based CDC said. Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord usually caused by an infection from a virus or bacteria.

The New England Compounding Center, which mixed the drug, suspended operations last week and recalled 17,676 doses. Twelve states have reported meningitis infections: Florida, Indiana, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

A representative of New England Compounding Pharmacy didn’t return a voice-mail message yesterday after regular business hours seeking comment on the lawsuit.

The case is Puro v. New England Compounding Pharmacy Inc., 12-02605, U.S. District Court for Minnesota (St. Paul).

To contact the reporter on this story: Joel Rosenblatt in San Francisco at jrosenblatt@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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