A U.S. District Court judge may decide today, Nov. 28 whether 12 Massachusetts lawsuits against Framingham-based New England Compounding Center can proceed, as both sides await a decision from a federal judicial panel on where the cases ultimately will be heard.
Earlier this week, national health officials said 36 people have died related to the national meningitis outbreak. Framingham specialty pharmacy New England Compounding Center (NECC) has been linked to the deadly outbreak.
Health officials said there are now 510 individuals infected with meningitis in 19 states. All of the Waverly Street's company's products have been recalled and the company has been shut down.
More than 40 lawsuits have already been filed nationally against NECC and its owners. Because the lawsuits have been filed in numerous states, there is expected to be a complicated legal battle over where those cases will be heard. It is likely a clas action suit will be filed.
The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation — a team of federal judges based in Washington, D.C. tasked with deciding whether many of these cases should be funneled to a single court or judge — will hold a hearing in late January to determine whether the federal cases should be consolidated. The decision will probably come in February, reported the Boston Globe.
At a court hearing this month, U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor asked for details on NECC’s insurance coverage.
Lawyers for New England Compounding favor consolidating the cases, which would save time and money for both sides by “streamlin[ing] the discovery process,” said Frederick H. Fern, a lawyer for the company. He’s hoping that the cases stay in US District Court in South Boston to the Globe.
NECC owner Barry Cadden took the fifth in the congressional hearing.
Just before Thanksgiving, a
In a congressional report, the FDA considered New England Compounding Center to be a pharmacy in 2003. Pharmacies are regulated by the state, drug manufacturers are regulated by the FDA.
Congressman Ed Markey, who represents Framingham, is the senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
He said NECC fell into a "blackhole" between federal and state regulators and became a "compounding manufacturer" and not a compounding pharmacy.
The two Washington committees may create legislation to shift oversight of compounding pharmacies from states to the FDA.
Also in November, Massachusetts fired the director of its Board of Pharmacy after he failed to investigate a complaint against New England Compounding Center.
The FDA released a list of customers, who received products from NECC in Framingham on or after May 21.