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NECC blames cleaners for meningitis

Jan. 4, 2013 at 3:38 PM

FRAMINGHAM, Mass., Jan. 4 (UPI) -- The New England Compounding Center blamed its cleaning service for the meningitis outbreak that killed 37 and sickened hundreds more, a filing showed Friday.

A Securities and Exchange Commission quarterly filing by UniFirst Corp., which cleaned the Framingham, Mass., lab once a month, indicated UniFirst had received a letter from the pharmaceutical compounding firm demanding UniFirst indemnify NECC for the outbreak, ABC reported.

"Based on its preliminary review of this matter, the company believes that NECC's claims are without merit," UniFirst said in its filing.

The fungus Exserohilum rostratum was detected in unopened vials of the preservative-free steroid produced at NECC, which produced about 17,000 doses of the injectable steroid that was shipped to 23 states and an estimated 14,000 doses were used to treat back and joint pain.

By mid-December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported nearly 600 sickened from the steroid, with 37 deaths. Greenish-black foreign matter was found in a bin containing some of the injections, the Food and Drug Administration said.

UniClean, a division of UniFirst, cleaned some of NECC's cleanrooms, UniFirst said in a statement. The process occurred once a month, was overseen by two technicians and took about 90 minutes.

"UniClean was not in any way responsible for NECC's day-to-day operations, its overall facility cleanliness or the integrity of the products they produced," spokesman Adam Soreoff said in a statement. "Therefore, based on what we know, we believe any NECC claims against UniFirst or UniClean are unfounded and without merit."

ABC said there was no immediate comment from NECC.

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