BOSTON – Victims of a meningitis outbreak tied to a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy will likely be allowed to do an exhaustive inspection of the facility, a federal judge said Thursday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jennifer Boal said she is inclined to allow the inspection by experts and lawyers for more than a dozen victims who filed lawsuits in Massachusetts against the New England Compounding Center.
The plaintiffs allege that they contracted fungal meningitis from contaminated steroid injections made by NECC. Health officials say 36 people have died and more than 500 others have been sickened nationwide.
Judi Abbott Curry, an NECC attorney, said the company agrees that the plaintiffs’ lawyers have the right to inspect the facility, but she argued that the inspection should be conducted after a federal judicial panel rules on whether the lawsuits in Massachusetts and hundreds more around the country should be consolidated before a single court. A judicial panel is scheduled to hold a hearing on that issue in January.
But Boston attorney Kimberly Dougherty, legal liaison for the lawsuits filed in Massachusetts, said the victims should be allowed to do the inspection as soon as possible.
Dougherty said they want to do a four-day inspection that would include cutting holes in the walls, ceiling and floors for swabbing, photographing and other testing.
We don’t have any alternative way to get this evidence, Dougherty said.
Curry said conditions at the facility have changed since the steroid injections were made because numerous government investigators have been in and out over the past few months. She said an expert hired by NECC believes there is no test that will pinpoint the exact age or origin of mold spores.
Inspections by federal health regulators found a host of potential contaminants, including standing water, mold and water droplets.