The tragic and painful drama of The New England Compounding Center (NECC) came to a dramatic point last week with the conclusion of the criminal trial of its co-founder and chief executive officer. This was the latest chapter in a scandal that has, unfortunately, thrown a negative light on all compounding pharmacies. As the Boston Globe observed, the trial and the scandal “opened a window onto the little-known compounding industry.”
In 2012, fungal meningitis and other infections in twenty states were traced by the CDC to contaminated steroids, used principally to treat back pain, that were produced by NECC. This national outbreak was caused by fungal contamination of three batches of preservation-free methylprednisolone acetate (MPA). Vials of the steroid were shipped to pain management clinics, primarily in Tennessee, Indiana, and Michigan. The fungus-contaminated drugs killed 64 people in nine states. In addition to the 64 deaths, 753 people became seriously ill.