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Boston and Beyond

December 30, 2012

Lab scandals, elections top 2012 news in Mass.

BOSTON (AP) — A fungal meningitis outbreak that killed 39 people and sickened at least 620 in 19 states dominated Massachusetts headlines in 2012 after investigations revealed that a Framingham pharmacy produced tainted steroid shots that triggered the crisis.

Other top stories of the year included a scandal centered on the state’s own drug lab that led to the release of hundreds of prisoners, the defeat of former governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the election of Democrat Elizabeth Warren to the Senate and a return trip to the Super Bowl for the Patriots.

In the meningitis case, a preliminary probe found shoddy sterilization practices and unclean condition at the New England Compounding Center, but none was enough to definitively determine what caused the contamination. NECC effectively went out of business after suspending its operation. Gov. Deval Patrick said the company may have misled regulators and done work beyond the scope of its state license.

The state’s own drug lab was at the center of another top story. A Massachusetts chemist was accused of deliberately faking drug test results in criminal cases, a scandal that led to the closure of the lab and the release of at least 200 prisoners whose cases are now on hold. Thousands of cases are under review. At least five senior state officials have resigned or been fired. The chemist, 35-year-old Annie Dookhan, pleaded not guilty to several criminal charges.

In politics in 2012, Democrat Elizabeth Warren became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts. She unseated Republican Sen. Scott Brown in one of the most closely watched races of the election.

Republican Mitt Romney became the latest Massachusetts politician to lose the presidential race when Democratic President Barack Obama was re-elected for his second and final term. Defeat was particularly difficult for Romney, whose aides said hours before polls closed that he had only prepared one speech — to celebrate his victory.

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