LANSING- Attorney General Bill Schuette Friday announced the Michigan Court of Appeals has granted his request to empanel a multi-county grand jury to investigate whether New England Compounding Center (NECC), a Massachusetts company linked to the recent meningitis outbreak, broke any state laws when it distributed tainted steroid injections to patients at clinics in four Michigan counties. Michigan leads the nation in patients affected by the outbreak, with 259 infections and 16 deaths according to the most official tallies recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Michigan Department of Community Health.
“As a former judge, I know the court made this decision in a thoughtful, deliberative, and thorough manner,” said Schuette. “This was a horrific tragedy where Michigan citizens seeking pain relief contracted damaging meningitis infections, or even worse, lost their lives. The people of Michigan deserve answers. We will find the truth.”
“This investigation will uncover what went wrong, bring law-breakers to justice, and help us strengthen our health system to ensure tragedies like this never happen again.”
In a 2-1 decision, the Michigan Court of Appeals appointed Livingston County’s 44th Circuit Chief Judge David J. Reader to oversee the work of the grand jury. The Court ruled thirteen jurors will be chosen from all four counties: Livingston (four jurors), Genesee (three jurors), Macomb (three jurors), and Grand Traverse (three jurors). The jury is empaneled for a six month term, which may be extended, if warranted. The proceedings will take place in Livingston County, or at a location within the four counties as designated by the presiding judge. A prosecutor from Schuette’s Criminal Division stands ready to assist the grand jury with its investigation.
On Tuesday, March 26, 2013, Schuette filed a formal petition to request a grand jury investigation of NECC with the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Following a confidential review of the evidence, the grand jury can decide whether to issue criminal indictments. Grand juries are one of the strongest investigative entities in state law, holding the power to compel testimony under oath.
On October 12, 2012, following verified reports that NECC was responsible for the meningitis outbreak, Schuette acted to suspend the company’s pharmacy license in the State of Michigan. In a formal Complaint and Order of Summary Suspension filed with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, Schuette alleged that NECC acted as a “drug manufacturer” – not a compounding facility – by distributing large amounts of medication to various hospitals and clinics in Michigan. The company had only been licensed to fill individual prescriptions for Michigan patients as a compounding facility. NECC’s license was suspended and the company was forced to cease operations in Michigan.
On December 12, 2012, the Michigan Board of Pharmacy Disciplinary Subcommittee formally agreed to the surrender and NECC voluntarily surrendered their Michigan pharmacy and controlled substance licenses. As a result, NECC can no longer do business in the State of Michigan, and its surrender will be reported as a disciplinary surrender to other states. Because the order provides that the surrender is based on a breach of Michigan’s Public Health Code, the State of Michigan can deny licensure to any individual who had a financial interest in NECC and applies for a new pharmacy license in the future.
As of April 15, 2013, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) reports Michigan citizens have been hardest hit, with 259 infections and 16 deaths. The CDC records the next hardest–hit state to be Tennessee, with 152 infections and 14 deaths. The latest CDC reports can be viewed online: http://www.cdc.gov/hai/outbreaks/meningitis-map.html.
On October 6, 2012, NECC issued a recall of all its products currently in circulation that were produced and distributed from its facility in Framingham, Massachusetts. More information about the recall, including a list of affected medications can be found here: http://www.neccrx.com.