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Under the microscope: Meningitis outbreak

3:14 PM, Nov 15, 2012   |    comments
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(NBC) -- A Congressional committee heard testimony Wednesday about the deadly outbreak of fungal meningitis and whether it could have been prevented.

The Congressional hearing began with stirring testimony from Joyce Lovelace.

Eddie Lovelace, her beloved husband of nearly 56 years, was one of 32 people who died of fungal meningitis after receiving contaminated steroid injections for pain.

"It was a nightmare to see this man who was perfectly healthy one moment and then just so quickly going downhill," Lovelace said.

Thousands of vials of injections, many later found to be growing mold, had been shipped all over the country from the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts.

The president of the NECC, Barry Cadden, was subpoenaed to appear before the committee but chose not to testify, invoking his 5th Amendment right instead.

Compounding pharmacies can fall into a regulatory black hole.

They're meant to make specific formulations of drugs for specific patients and states are responsible for their regulation, but investigators say the New England Compounding Center was acting more like a major drug manufacturer and should have been regulated as such.

Whether the outbreak could have been prevented is up for debate, but the Food and Drug Administration is asking congress for strengthened authority over compounding pharmacies in an effort to make sure it doesn't happen again.

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