Massachusetts Pharmacy in Settlement Over Tainted Injections
The Massachusetts pharmacy whose tainted steroid injections were blamed for a deadly outbreak of fungal meningitis has agreed to pay more than $100 million to victims and their families, according to lawyers involved in a tentative settlement.
The tentative deal is part of an effort to compensate victims and their families for injuries they suffered after receiving the injections for back pain. The plaintiffs are seeking additional money from the dozens of medical clinics that administered the tainted injections, said Thomas Sobol, lead lawyer for the victims.
"This is the first step in the process that we hope will generate more funds from others involved," said Paul Moore, the court-appointed bankruptcy trustee for the pharmacy, New England Compounding Center, of Framingham, Mass. The center suspended operations last year.
Of the 14,000 who received the tainted injections last year, 64 died and about 700 others fell ill, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The outbreak raised concerns about the regulation of compounding pharmacies, which custom-mix large batches of medications generally not available from pharmaceutical companies.
The tentative settlement, announced Monday, would create a fund of more than $100 million to pay for the pain and suffering and wrongful deaths of victims, according to lawyers involved in the litigation. Hundreds of victims have sued New England Compounding in state and federal courts. The pharmacy also has a small number of other creditors, like suppliers and utilities.
Victims or their families could begin receiving checks sometime next year, Mr. Sobol said. First, lawyers must work out how much they will take in fees and expenses. "Although this pot is a good amount, it's still going to fall far short of compensating victims, so we're hoping lawyers will be frugal in what they ask for," said Mr. Sobol, a lawyer at Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP in Boston.
A federal bankruptcy court in Boston must also sign off on the agreement, which it could do as early as January, said Mr. Moore, of Duane Morris LLP in Boston.
Treatment of the infections is still perplexing doctors and health authorities. Late last month, President Barack Obama signed a bill aiming to strengthen oversight of compounding pharmacies, either by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or by state pharmacy boards.