EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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December 7, 2012

Pharmacy not talking about state's finds

The Whittier Pharmacist can't reopen until its manufacturing operation complies with federal rules

HAVERHILL — A Bradford pharmacy has been closed by the state until it improves its procedures for storing and producing sterile injectable medications.

On Nov. 28, The Whittier Pharmacist, 25 Railroad Square, was ordered to cease operations until it brings its sterile compounding operations into compliance with federal standards, according to the state Department of Public Health.

The Haverhill compounding pharmacy was one of three such operations shut down by Gov. Deval Patrick since the state Board of Pharmacy began unannounced inspections in the wake of the meningitis outbreak at the New England Compounding Center in Framingham. Other Massachusetts pharmacies where minor deficiencies were found have been ordered to make corrections.

The meningitis outbreak has been linked to tainted steroids and is responsible for a deadly nationwide outbreak.

A message left with a receptionist at The Whittier Pharmacist was not returned and a spokeswoman for the state public health department declined to comment or provide more information about alleged violations at the Haverhill pharmacy because she said the investigation is ongoing.

A press release put out by the health department said the state Board of Pharmacy will pursue “any means necessary to ensure that those who place the public at risk are held accountable, including referring cases to the Attorney General.”

According to the public health department’s press release, regulators have been meeting regularly and are looking at best practices in other states and exploring changes to the law to help address the regulatory gray area surrounding compounding pharmacies.

New England Compounding Center was found to be in violation of state distribution regulations, shipping large quantities of compounded steroids to other states without specific patient prescriptions. Unsanitary conditions were also discovered at the lab, contributing to the tainted drugs infecting 541 patients to date and leading to 36 deaths in 19 states. The Board of Pharmacy permanently revoked NECC’s license to operate in Massachusetts, and criminal investigations are ongoing.

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