NECC, firm tied to outbreak, suspends operations

Posted: 10/03/12 at 3:55 pm EDT      Last Updated: 10/04/12 at 6:37 am EDT

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. (WHDH) -- A Framingham specialty pharmacy suspected as the source of a steroid that has been linked to an outbreak of a deadly form of meningitis says it has voluntarily suspended operations.

In a statement Wednesday, the New England Compounding Center said it was working closely with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and other regulators to identify the source of infection.

The company said that immediately after it was notified about the infections it initiated a voluntary recall Sept. 26.

Health officials say the outbreak has sickened 26 people in five states who received steroid injections. Four people have died. Eighteen of the cases are in Tennessee, where a Nashville clinic received the largest shipment of the steroid from the Framingham-based company.

The Massachusetts Department of Health said it is collaborating with federal regulators and other states on the investigation. It confirmed the New England Compounding Center voluntarily surrendered its license to operate and has recalled the suspected steroid medication along with all similar medications it produced. The health department said there have been no cases of the deadly form of meningitis in Massachusetts.

Eighteen of the cases -- and two deaths -- are in Tennessee where a Nashville clinic received the largest shipment of the steroid suspected in the outbreak. A health official says the steroid came from a specialty pharmacy, the New England Compounding Center, in Framingham, Mass.

The New England Compounding Center released a statement Wednesday about the outbreak:

"New England Compounding Center (NECC) is working closely with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy and other regulators to identify the source of infection in patients who received injections of methylprednisolone acetate. Upon notification of incidents of infection, NECC immediately initiated a voluntary recall of this product on September 26. As part of this process, we have voluntarily suspended operations while we assist authorities in their investigation."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the other cases are in Virginia, Maryland, Florida and North Carolina. Virginia and Maryland had one death each.

Health officials said Wednesday that more new cases are almost certain to appear in the coming days. Investigators have not ruled out contamination in other products.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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