Federal Agents Raid Pharmacy Linked To Meningitis Outbreak
By Phil Williams
Chief Investigative Reporter
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A Massachusetts pharmacy at the center of the fungal meningitis outbreak now finds itself at the center of a criminal investigation.
Late Tuesday afternoon, federal agents raided the New England Compounding Pharmacy in search of evidence regarding those tainted drugs.
Agents from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations were seen entering the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass. Those agents were believed to be armed with a federal search warrant.
Aerial video from NewsChannel 5's sister station in Boston, WBZ-TV, showed those federal agents -- assisted by local police -- putting up crime tape around the facility.
By definition, to get a search warrant, agents have to convince a judge that they have probable cause that a crime has been committed.
This development is not completely unexpected.
Ever since investigators traced the source of the outbreak to that facility, as NewsChannel 5 has reported, there has been increasing evidence that NECC had essentially been engaged in manufacturing drugs -- even though it was not licensed as a manufacturer.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates reported 10 days ago that Massachusetts authorities had issued a statement saying that pharmacists and pharmacies there "are only permitted to dispense and compound medication pursuant to a prescription from a registered practitioner for an individual patient" -- not mass production.
So, if NECC was doing something that it was not legally authorized to do, agents would certainly be interested in its production records.
A former federal prosecutor tells us they are also likely looking to see if the pharmacy knew it had problems with contamination and simply chose to ignore those problems.
That raid came on the same day that U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether NECC had illegally dispensed controlled substances.
"The list of recalled NECC drug products appears to include nearly 1,000 specific formulations that contained controlled substances that fall under the purview of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), including substances such as cocaine, morphine, hydromorphone, meperidine, sufentanil, fentanyl and ketamine," Markey wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
NECC is not registered with the DEA as a manufacturer, the congressman added.
"This is a matter that I believe requires further investigation by the DEA to ensure that this facility, already believed to have broken Massachusetts state law, has not also skirted federal law related to controlled substances," Markey concluded.
Nationwide, at least 233 people have been sickened and 15 are dead from the rare form of fungal meningitis linked to the pharmacy.
NECC suspended operations shortly after the outbreak.
- 10/2/12: Meningitis Investigators Eye Link To Compounding Pharmacy
- 10/3/12: Meningitis Outbreak Traced To MassaChusetts Pharmacy
- 10/4/12: 17,676 Vials At Center Of Meningitis Investigation
- 10/5/12: Statement Suggests Pharmacy May Have Violated Law