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Archive July 2016 XVII, No. 7

Editor's Page: Compounding the Compounding Disaster

Was a callous disregard for people the Rx for medication contamination?

Dan O

Dan O'Connor, Editor-in-Chief


compounding disaster story

By word count and by body count, this month's cover story is the biggest we've ever published. It's also one of the most disturbing. "Compounding Disaster," which begins on page 22, details the meteoric rise and even more startling fall of the New England Compounding Center, the strip-mall pharmacy in suburban Boston that singlehandedly sparked a nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis by selling vials of injectable steroids that were tainted with a deadly fungus.

The toll from the deadliest medication contamination case in U.S. history is staggering: 64 dead and 750 injured and, as you'll see in the 4 sidebars that accompany our cover story, impaired for life.

Though a mound of damning evidence suggests otherwise, you can only hope that the owners and operators of the compounding lab weren't as reckless and as remorseless as they appear to have been in carrying out their alleged crimes. It would certainly be easier to fathom (not pardon) their deadly sins if they were blinded by such destructive human behaviors as greed and arrogance — and not just a callous disregard for others.

But how else do you explain the disdain they showed for FDA policy and good pharmacy practices by manufacturing drugs by the gallon instead of filling individual prescriptions? Or the filthy conditions in which they worked? During a raid of NECC, state health officials discovered squalor where sterile products were to be packaged and stored: a leaky boiler, vents in the clean room covered with dirt and fuzz, and a metal shelf in the same room covered in a reddish-brown, cloudy substance. There was a greenish-yellow discoloration in one of the autoclaves and condensation in another.

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