Pharmacies Pull Drugs from Suspect Company, Scramble to Re-Stock
Massachusetts regulators have permanently pulled the license of the New England Compounding Center, the company linked to the deaths of 24 people who received injections of a steroid mixed at its Framingham facility. Area health providers are getting rid of any N-E-C-C products they might have - and taking steps to make sure they have needed medicines in stock.
The Food and Drug Administration has released a list of some 3,000 health care providers WHO received medications from NECC, which mixed specialty drugs that are not directly available from major manufacturers. That includes dozens of providers in western Massachusetts, from hospitals to eye-care clinics.
There is no indication that any products other than an injectable steroid NECC produced were contaminated. And authorities say no providers in Massachusetts received shipments of that suspect drug. But area providers have STILL been taking all NECC-sourced drugs out of circulation.
"As a precautionary measure we discontinued use of all of those medications as soon as the investigation was announced," says Michael Leary, a spokesman for Berkshire Health Systems in Pittsfield. And Gary Kerr, chief pharmacy officer at Bay state health in Springfield, says his hospital has done the same - and is now mixing its own compounds in-house, when it can can get the needed ingredients.
"I'd like to believe that this is an outlier. But I can tell you with certainty that any on whose involved with mixing sterile products is on edge right now, and taking inordinate steps to make sure that all of their internal processes are as tight as they can be," Kerr says.
Kerr is acting president of the Mass Society of Health Systems Pharmacists. He says he and his colleagues are upset about one revelation from the NECC case - it turns out commercial compounding pharmacies may have an easier time securing the building blocks of compounded drugs than their in-hospital counterparts. That's just one area, Kerr says, where he expects reforms in state and federal regulations.