By Tim McLaughlin
BOSTON Nov 7 Authorities fired the director of
the Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy after he failed to
investigate a complaint against New England Compounding Center,
the company at the center of a deadly U.S meningitis outbreak,
state officials said on Wednesday.
NECC is linked to a meningitis outbreak that has infected
more than 400 people and caused 31 deaths.
Massachusetts officials said they uncovered a complaint
against NECC by Colorado pharmacy regulators just months before
the outbreak. The complaint, which said NECC was distributing
drugs without patient-specific prescriptions, was forwarded on
July 26 to James Coffey, director of the Massachusetts pharmacy
Coffey failed to order an investigation or take any other
action on the Colorado complaint, the Massachusetts Department
of Public Health's interim commissioner, Dr. Lauren Smith, said
in a statement.
In the years before the outbreak, NECC escaped harsh
punishment from the Massachusetts pharmacy board, raising
questions about oversight of the customized drug mixing
industry, state records released last month show.
Smith said Coffey has been terminated and the pharmacy
board's counsel, Susan Manning, has been placed on
administrative leave pending the final conclusions of the
"It is incomprehensible that Mr. Coffey and Ms. Manning did
not act on the Colorado complaint given NECC's past, and their
responsibility to investigate complaints," Smith said in a
statement. "Following the outbreak, staff also failed to
disclose the existence of Colorado's complaint to leadership at"
the Department of Public Health.
Coffey was not immediately available for comment.
The Colorado State Board of Pharmacy shared information
that showed NECC had distributed many drugs to many hospitals in
Colorado between 2010 and 2012, but without patient-specific
prescriptions. That was a violation of NECC's Colorado and
Massachusetts licenses, according to Smith's statement. NECC was
not immediately available for comment.
In 2011, during a routine inspection, Colorado inspectors
found that NECC had participated in the unregistered/unlicensed
distribution of prescription drugs in Colorado. As a result,
Colorado issued a cease-and-desist order against NECC in April
"I find the actions of NECC reprehensible," Smith said in
the statement. "We have the right to expect that all companies
producing medication for use in delivering health care to comply
with laws designed to protect patient safety. But I also expect
the staff charged with oversight to perform their duties to the
highest standards. That failed to happen here."