Previously, we mentioned the fungal meningitis outbreak that has been linked to steroid injections provided by the New England Compounding Center (NECC) pharmacy. Late last month, the owner of the NECC refused to answer questions, pleading the Fifth Amendment regarding the case and his company’s culpability.
The NECC owner and co-founder, Barry Cadden, informed the lawmakers of a specially-formed investigating Congressional committee that he would decline to testify in the negligence and wrongful death investigation on the basis of his right not to incriminate himself.
The House legislators questioned him steadily, and Cadden continually told the Energy and Commerce Committee that, “Under advice of counsel, I respectfully decline to answer under basis of my constitutional rights and privileges, including the Fifth Amendment.” Even as lawmakers continued to question him about a contamination and outbreak that has left 32 people dead and 440 people seriously ill, Cadden simply indicated that he would not respond.
The NECC temporarily closed its doors in early October. Massachusetts officials have moved to have the NECC’s license to operate in their state permanently revoked. The NECC did order a recall of all their products, including over 17,000 vials of the steroid that tested positive for the fungus linked to the meningitis cases.
October inspections of NECC’s manufacturing facility found no shortage of hazards and potential contaminant sources. There were instances of standing water, mold, and droplets of water in multiple places. Any of these could breed bacteria or fungi capable of causing infections of many sorts, including the kind in this new outbreak. Drugs of the sort that was infected are meant to be prepared in temperature regulated clean rooms to avoid just this eventuality.
According to legal documents, the NECC has been investigated three times previously for similar sterility and contamination issues. Unlike Tylenol, which took full responsibility for the contamination of their products when they were poisoned and kept the public clearly informed, the NECC seems content to remain quiet in self-defense.