Report: Feds wanted to shut down Mass. pharmacy tied to meningitis in '03

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Massachusetts pharmacy linked to a recent deadly meningitis outbreak has had run-ins with regulators before.

Congressional investigators say the Food and Drug Administration wanted to shut down the New England Compounding Center nearly a decade ago until it cleaned up its operations. But FDA officials deferred to their Massachusetts counterparts, who ultimately reached a settlement with the pharmacy.

About 440 people have been sickened by contaminated steroid shots distributed by the pharmacy. More than 32 deaths have been reported since the outbreak began in September, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee released a detailed history of the pharmacy's regulatory troubles ahead of a meeting tomorrow to examine how the outbreak could have been prevented.

The report lists numerous complaints against the pharmacy dating back to its founding in 1998. They include reports from 2002 that two patients at a Rochester, N.Y., hospital came down with symptoms of bacterial meningitis after being injected with the same steroid linked to the current outbreak.

The pharmacy closed last month and has recalled all the products it makes.