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Pharmacy Regulator Fired After Meningitis Investigation

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By Phil Williams
Chief Investigative Reporter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- There are new questions about that deadly fungal meningitis outbreak -- and whether more could have been done to prevent it.

On Wednesday, Massachusetts authorities fired one regulator and suspended another. They are accused of failing to follow up on leads about improper practices at the pharmacy that mixed up the tainted drugs.

Massachusetts interim health commissioner called the breakdown "incomprehensible."

It follows an internal investigation that discovered that Massachusetts regulators got a complaint back in July, but did nothing about it.

That complaint focused on the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass. It came from regulators in Colorado, who had discovered evidence that the facility was essentially engaged in mass production -- something that it was not licensed to do.

The complaint was forwarded to the director of the Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy, as well as the board's attorney.

But the two failed to order an investigation, authorities said.

In a statement, the state's interim health commissioner said she finds "the actions of NECC reprehensible."

"But I also expect staff charged with oversight to perform their duties to the highest standards," Dr. Lauren Smith said. "That failed to happen here."

NECC produced three batches of that tainted steroid drug.

The complaint in July came after the first two were mixed, but two weeks before NECC produced the third batch.

So far, there have been 31 deaths nationwide -- 13 in Tennessee.

Email: pwilliams@newschannel5.com

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