The meningitis outbreak stemming from defective steroid injections has claimed the lives of at least 45 people. More than 600 people contracted fungal meningitis from the medications produced by the New England Compounding Center. The maker of those tainted drugs is not the only responsible party, however. In many cases, doctors and clinics have been held accountable in medical malpractice claims for distributing tainted medications. The basis of these claims is that doctors failed to act with due diligence when they distributed the steroids to patients who became ill. Doctors and hospitals are in a far better position to ensure the safety of the medications they order and prescribe than individual patients.
Compounding pharmacies have drawn enhanced scrutiny as some questionable or illegal business practices have come to light. Compounding pharmacies are required to produce drugs specifically tailored to a given prescription. The NECC was reportedly mass-producing certain compounds without waiting for a specific prescription. If this was known, or should have been known by the medical professionals dispensing the drugs, that could be the basis for liability.
Medical malpractice is not the only way doctors can be held liable. Under product liability law, any or all parties that lie along the chain of a product from manufacture to consumer can be held liable. States vary on how they handle product liability claims against doctors who dispensed defective drugs or medical devices.
The meningitis outbreak forced the NECC to declare bankruptcy last year. It is highly unlikely that the company will have sufficient funds to compensate the victims of their deadly negligence. For those injured, it may be necessary to seek alternative means to collect fair compensation for the harm they experienced.
Source: American Medical News, “Physicians entangled in tainted drugs lawsuits,” by Alicia Gallegos, 11 February 2013