On July 14, 2014, a bankruptcy judge will be asked to approve a $100 million settlement in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of the New England Compounding Pharmacy (NECC). NECC is the compounding pharmacy that, in 2012, distributed contaminated steroid injections to clinics in 23 states across the country.
The Bankruptcy Trustee has determined that this settlement is a “best case scenario” in light of the risk that less money might otherwise be recovered. According to the Trustee, the settlement includes money that would not be recoverable through litigation, including substantial contributions from the personal assets of NECC’s owners and officers. Regardless, the Bankruptcy Court will have the final word on the fairness of the settlement.
The settlement funds, if approved, will be used to compensate an estimated 3,300 personal injury victims who submitted claims in the bankruptcy. Thousands of these patients have been diagnosed with fungal meningitis and other serious injuries. As many as 75 deaths have been confirmed.
Fungal meningitis, which can be deadly, is a rare condition that occurs when fungus enters the blood and travels to the spinal cord. It can cause a variety of symptoms including fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, and sensitivity to light, among others.
Many if not all patients who received contaminated injections were required to undergo very painful spinal tap procedures. This involved having a a large needle inserted into the spinal cord, to retrieve spinal fluid for testing. In some cases, multiple spinal taps were required. Many had to live with the very real fear that, if diagnosed with fungal meningitis, they might die. Treatment for fungal meningitis includes long courses of high dose antifungal medications, usually given through an IV line in the hospital.