The Straits Times
Published on Oct 13, 2012

Congress widens scrutiny of US meningitis outbreak to regulator


WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The US House of Representatives on Friday widened its investigation into the deadly meningitis outbreak to include the role health regulators played in monitoring the pharmacy that produced steroid treatments suspected of causing the crisis.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee called on the Massachusetts pharmacy board to tell congressional staff what it knew about the New England Compounding Center before the recall of more than 17,000 vials of sterile injectable steroid treatments for back and joint pain from health facilities in 23 states. Massachusetts board officials were not immediately available for comment.

The panel, which oversees health issues including drug safety, said the US Food and Drug Administration was aware of production problems at Framingham, Massachusetts-based NECC in 2006, including potential public health risks involving a different sterile injectable drug.

The rare fungal form of meningitis has killed 14 people in six states, with the first case reported in Texas on Friday. The number of cases nationwide reached 184, an increase of 15 from Thursday, CDC said.