By Virginia Buchanan

November 11th, 2012  10:00am

Further investigation into the Meningitis outbreak shows that Colorado officials complained to the Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy of safety violations in July, months before the meningitis outbreak.    As a result, the director of the  Board, James Coffey, has been removed for failing to act on the complaints.

Generally, an investigation is ordered by the Director of the Board when serious safety complaints are brought to the Pharmacy Board’s attention.  Not so in this case.

Susan S. Martin,  an inspector for the Colorado State Board became alarmed about violations she saw when she performed a routine audit and inspection at a Colorado hospital earlier in the year.  She was particularly concerned about drugs being shipped in bulk by the New England Compounding Center to Colorado without prescriptions or corresponding documentation.  Based upon her inspection, a lengthy report was generated to notify the Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy of the safety deficiencies.  The Board is charged with policing pharmacies, including The New England Compounding Center.  The Center is believed to be responsible for distributing the contaminated medications tied to 31 fungal meningitis deaths.

Rather than following up and evaluating the Center for the serious deficiencies, it appears that no review or other action was ordered by Dr. Coffey.  He simply forwarded the 34 page Colorado complaint to the Board and its attorney, Susan Manning.  Hundreds of patients have been treated for fungal meningitis since then, and dozens have died.

The Pharmacy Board issued a statement today soundly rebuking Mr. Coffey’s and Ms. Manning’s actions.  It voted to fire Mr. Coffey and place Ms. Manning on administrative leave pending further inquiry.

Virginia Buchanan is a shareholder at Levin, Papantonio.  She has served on the Board of Directions of the Florida Bar Foundation and has been Treasurer of ABOTA, Chairperson of the Civil Process Server Grievance Committeee and has been a member of the Chief Judge’s Council on Children. She currently is a member of the Women’s Caucus of the Florida Justice Association.