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Local clinic tied to meningitis outbreak

June 25, 2013

LINCOLN – A local pain management clinic has received a federal court subpoena for records tied to a national outbreak of fungal meningitis resulting from tainted pharmaceuticals last year.
Ocean State Pain Management of Blackstone Valley Place is one of 76 clinics around the country that federal health officials say dispensed contaminated drugs from New England Compounding Pharmacy in Framingham.
The federal Centers for Disease Control, which is still monitoring the outbreak, has so far recorded more than 700 infections nationwide from the tainted drugs, 15 of which were fatal. The outbreak triggered a spate of wrongful death and personal injury suits which have been consolidated in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, where the subpoenas originated, said Boston lawyer Kimberly Dougherty.
“This is one of many subpoenas being served nationwide on most of the approximately 76 clinics across the country that have been identified as having dispensed NECP products,” she said in a statement.
The CDC reported three cases of fungal meningitis in Rhode Island linked to a contaminated steroid – methylprednisolone acetate – which originated from NECP. Two of the victims were treated at Ocean State Pain Management clinics, including a site in Woonsocket which has since closed, and another facility in East Greenwich. A third illness was tied to drugs NECP had supplied to New England Anesthesiology, which operated sites in East Greenwich and Warwick.
The purpose of the subpoenas is to gather “material facts” relevant to the continuing litigation and is not an indication of wrongdoing on the part of the clinics that received them, Dougherty said.
Dr. Abdul Barakat, who runs Ocean State Pain Management, confirmed that the clinic turned over records sought by the subpoena, which he received on June 21. Barakat said the clinic is not a target of the litigation and has been fully compliant with the subpoenas.
“We provided them with the records indicating that the patients received these medications from the Framingham pharmacy, period,” said Barakat.
Dougherty said the subpoena signals “the next step” of an on ongoing investigation into the role clinics like Ocean State Pain Management played in the distribution of contaminated medication. She said, “We believe the information we receive from Ocean State Pain Management will help us understand how the outbreak of fungal meningitis occurred.”
New England Compounding Pharmacy filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after getting hit with a wave of litigation triggered by the outbreak, believed to the worst on record for fungal meningitis, Dougherty said. In February, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ordered all the suits consolidated in the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts. Thomas M. Sobol, an attorney with the firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, is lead counsel for the Plaintiffs Steering Committee, of which Dougherty is a member.


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