KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Meningitis Outbreak Could Prompt Call For Executive Jail Time

A tough prosecutor and high public scrutiny could mean jail time for executives of the New England Compounding Center -- the pharmacy at the center of the deadly meningitis outbreak. In the meantime, the pharmacy's lawyers counter that the executives had no direct hand in the illnesses.

The Boston Globe: Pharmacy Case May See Call For Jail Time
The top executives of New England Compounding Center are likely to be criminally prosecuted on federal charges that carry possible prison sentences, according to former prosecutors who cite the large number of people harmed, allegedly by contaminated steroids made by the Framingham pharmacy. U.S. Attorney Carmen M. ­Ortiz, whose Boston office is known for aggressive prosecution of health care companies, acknowledged in a statement last month that she is probing New England Compounding, but has declined further comment (Lazar, 11/21).

Reuters: Pharmacy Owners Had No Hand In Meningitis Outbreak: Lawyers
Lawyers for New England Compounding Center's owners told a federal judge on Tuesday there is no evidence that any of them directly participated in the events that led to a deadly U.S. meningitis outbreak. The defense lawyers also argued to block a motion by meningitis victims to freeze the assets of NECC and its owners (McLaughlin, 11/20).

Watchdog group Public Citizen, however, is blaming Medicare's reimbursement policies for the meningitis outbreak --

Medpage Today: Watchdog Blames Medicare For Meningitis Cases
Consumer watchdog Public Citizen is pointing toward flawed Medicare reimbursement practices for compounded drugs as a reason for the fungal meningitis outbreak that has killed 34 people. The group said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is required by law to deny Medicare reimbursement for any drug that is not "reasonable and necessary" and that the agency generally considers drugs that haven't received FDA approval -- which would include many compounded formulations -- not to have met that standard. Yet despite those regulations, CMS nonetheless provided reimbursement to centers such as the New England Compounding Center (NECC), allowing large-scale compounding pharmacies to flourish (Pittman, 11/20).

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