By KRISTIN M. HALL, Associated Press
NASHVILLE (AP) — The pharmacist who co-founded a Massachusetts specialty pharmacy linked to a meningitis outbreak has voluntarily surrendered his license in Tennessee as state health officials report an increase in people sickened.
In a special meeting held Tuesday, the state pharmacy board accepted the agreement by Barry Cadden, the co-founder of New England Compounding Center, to surrender his pharmacist license in the state.
The outbreak of rare fungal meningitis, an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, has sickened more than 300 people, including 23 who died, in 17 states. Nine patients in Tennessee have died. Fungal meningitis is not contagious.
The Tennessee Department of Health said the number of people in the state who have been sickened by meningitis, epidural abscess or posterior stroke after receiving injections of steroid compounds produced by the New England Compounding Center rose to 70 on Tuesday.
New England Compounding Center voluntarily surrendered its license to sell medicine in Tennessee on Oct. 15.
Joyce McDaniel, a pharmacy board member, questioned attorneys for the health department about how many contaminated vials were sent to Tennessee, a tally that could be used to assess fines against NECC and Cadden.
“I’m ready today to fine this pharmacist,” said McDaniel, who is not a pharmacist but represents consumers for the board.
John R. Smith, chief deputy general counsel for the Tennessee Department of Health, said that the compromise agreement with Cadden allows the board to retain the right to assess civil penalties, but explained that they needed more information about the scope of the outbreak before they could assess a fine.
The board asked the attorneys for the health department to gather information before their next scheduled meeting in November about the number of contaminated vials that were provided to facilities in Tennessee and how many prescriptions were written for the injections.
Smith said after the meeting that the pharmacy board can issue a fine of up to $1,000 per violation, which would be based on the number of contaminated vials that were sent to Tennessee.
He said that at the minimum, the board would likely issue fines for at least the number of people who have become sick in Tennessee, which currently stands at 69 including nine deaths.
State health officials have said that three clinics in Tennessee received 2,520 vials of methylprednisolone acetate from three recalled lots from NECC and 447 were not used.