A federal judge in Boston is expected to hear arguments today, Nov. 20, on whether to freeze nearly $500 million in assets, including luxury homes, related to New England Compounding Center, the Framingham-based specialty pharmacy linked to a deadly U.S. meningitis outbreak, reported Reuters.
U.S. District Judge Dennis Saylor has ordered an expedited hearing to determine whether to freeze at least $461 million in assets belonging to New England Compounding Center, its owners and two related companies, according to court records.
The fungal meningitis outbreak, linked to New England Compounding Center on Waverly Street in Framinghan, has killed 34 patients and infected almost 500 individuals in 19 states.
Western Reserve Surgery Center on S.R. 59 in Franklin Township was among the customers of NECC who received back pain injections tainted with meningitis, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
The judge granted the request after plaintiffs' attorneys argued NECC and its owners might try to conceal assets to avoid now more than 30 lawsuits filed nationwide.
Lawyers for NECC and its owners Barry Cadden his brother-in-law Gregory Conigliaro would like the lawsuits consolidated.
"There are at least 43 such cases currently pending in numerous federal courts around the country ... All of these actions seek recovery for injuries allegedly caused by the injection of methylprednisolone acetate compounded and distributed by NECC," said the NECC lawyers.
Gregory Conigliaro and his wife, Cynthia, bought a home in Southborough for $3.5 million in 2010 and a Cape Cod vacation home for $2.35 million this year, reported the New York Times.
Cadden and his wife, Lisa, bought a beach home about three years ago that recently was featured in Rhode Island Monthly magazine.
Cadden took the fifth in the congressional hearing.
In a congressional report, the FDA considered New England Compounding Center to be a pharmacy in 2003. Pharmacies are regulated by the state, drug manaufacturers are regulated by the FDA.
Congressman Ed Markey, who represents Framingham, is the senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
He said NECC fell into a "blackhole" between federal and state regulators and became a "compounding manufacturer" and not a compounding pharmacy.
The two Washington committees may create legislation to shift oversight of compounding pharmacies from states to the FDA.
Earlier this month, Massachusetts fired the director of its Board of Pharmacy after he failed to investigate a complaint against New England Compounding Center.
The FDA released a list of customers, who received products from NECC in Framingham on or after May 21.
Correction: this story has been updated as it incorrectly identified a Kent business as having been a customer of the Massachussetts pharmacy involved in distributing back pain injections tainted with meningitis.