Pharmacy in outbreak lacked proper Minn. license

Associated Press Modified: October 10, 2012 at 3:32 pm •  Published: October 10, 2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Massachusetts specialty pharmacy that mixed and supplied a steroid blamed for a deadly meningitis outbreak isn't licensed to distribute the drug in Minnesota, a state official said Wednesday.

Minnesota Pharmacy Board director Cody Wiberg said the New England Compounding Center should have been licensed as a wholesaler and manufacturer in order to sell the drug in bulk to clinics. He said the company has a Minnesota pharmacy license that allows only for the filling of individual prescriptions — not bulk distribution of mixed drugs.

"It's not acceptable to compound large batches and start selling it at wholesale" without obtaining the proper licenses, Wiberg said.

Wiberg wouldn't comment on whether the board is investigating the pharmacy. The company's license status was first reported by the Star Tribune.

The fungal meningitis outbreak has sickened more than 100 people and killed 12. In Minnesota, three women have become ill after steroid shots for back pain.

Minnesota law bans out-of-state drug wholesalers from selling or distributing drugs without a valid state license.

Wiberg said the state also would require a manufacturing license for bulk drug compounding, or custom mixing. Licensed pharmacies are allowed to mix drugs on their premises to fill individual prescriptions, but not to distribute or sell to clinics or other pharmacies. A state manufacturing license also would require a pharmacy to register with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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