November 28, 2012 — With at least 70 civil lawsuits pending against a pharmacy linked to a massive outbreak of fungal meningitis, a federal judge in Boston has rejected arguments from the pharmacy owners to delay proceedings until next year. U.S. District Judge Dennis Saylor found that the lawsuits should proceed in the interest of protecting the integrity of evidence. At a hearing in Boston, the judge said, “I don’t want two or three or four months to go by with nothing happening.”

The outbreak of fungal meningitis has sickened more than 500 people and caused at least 36 deaths. Potentially contaminated medicines were recalled at the end of September, and the number of new cases of meningitis has abated. However, new cases of fungal infections are still being reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The outbreak has been traced to New England Compounding Center, a pharmacy located in Farmingham, Massachusetts. Attorneys for the pharmacy wanted to delay proceedings until a federal panel of judges could decide whether to centralize the lawsuits into a single federal court, also known as a Multi-District Litigation (MDL).

Most of the lawsuits are filed in Massachusetts, Tennessee, Michigan, and Minnesota. However, cases have been reported in 19 states.

Judge Saylor denied a motion to freeze the assets of NECC’s owners, but he prohibited the company from making any large cash transfers or paying large bonuses to the executives in the company. The company has already suspended operations and its pharmacy license has been revoked.

The owners of the pharmacy may face criminal charges. Federal attorneys have confirmed that they are investigating the owners of the pharmacy. Judge Saylor noted that a criminal case would have priority in gathering evidence. He said, “There may be a grand jury investigation, I don’t know, but there is certainly a potential criminal investigation overlaid on this.”


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