(NECN: Jennifer Eagan - Framingham, Mass.) - Under lax oversight, authorities say the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., produced contaminated steroids.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 39 deaths and 656 cases of fungal meningitis have been traced to the tainted drugs.
“The regulation that we have in place and the governing authority has not kept up with an industry that’s changed. It’s really built around the corner drug store,” Gov. Deval Patrick told reporters on Friday.
Patrick outlined legislation meant to strengthen the supervision of the state’s pharmacies. Under current regulations, all pharmacies from CVS to compounding pharmacies making specialized drugs fall under the same license.
Patrick’s proposal would require a special license for sterile compounding. The number of inspectors at the Board of Pharmacy would be increased to help regulate the industry. The legislation would allow the board to issue fines for the first time against pharmacies which violate regulations, and the Board of Pharmacy itself would be reorganized to include a nurse, a doctor and public members.
Surprise inspections of pharmacies began in October in the wake of the meningitis outbreak rooted at NECC. For many, the proposed changes come too late after a company the governor said operated in the shadows did so with deadly consequences.
Patrick hopes the legislation will fill gaps in oversight and prevent another tragedy.
“There is, of course, no action that we and government can take to prevent all abuses in all industries," Patrick said. "But we must do what we can."