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New England Compounding Meningitis Suits Can Proceed

Lawsuits against New England Compounding Pharmacy Inc. over cases of fungal meningitis linked to the company’s injectable steroids can move forward and evidence must be preserved, a federal judge said.

The company had asked U.S. District Judge Dennis Saylor in Boston to delay a dozen lawsuits filed in federal court in Massachusetts pending a decision next year by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation on which court should hear the hundreds of cases pending nationwide.

“I’m going to do the best I can to make sure evidence is preserved,” Saylor said at a hearing today. He also said he will consolidate the Massachusetts cases, a measure backed by both the plaintiffs and New England Compounding.

More than 30 people died and 490 were injured after the company shipped fungus-tainted drugs to customers throughout the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Saylor said he will issue a ruling on the preservation of evidence “so there’s teeth in a judicial order and it can be enforced.”

A magistrate judge is to hold hearings in the coming weeks on what procedures experts can use when they inspect New England Compounding’s facilities in Framingham, Massachusetts, to gather evidence.

‘Isn’t Compromised’

“We need an order in place so evidence isn’t compromised,” said Kimberly Dougherty of Janet, Jenner & Suggs, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

New England Compounding attorneys have said the MDL panel should take the lead in adjudicating the cases.

“We’re satisfied with the ruling to coordinate these cases,” Frederick H. Fern, a lawyer for New England Compounding with Harris Beach PLLC, said in an e-mail. “The MDL decision is not expected until sometime after January 2013. In the meantime, the parties can proceed with the preparation and service of initial disclosures.”

The case is Cole v. New England Compounding Pharmacy, 12-12066, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

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