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October 10th, 2012
11:19 AM ET

CNN's Sanjay Gupta reports compounding pharmacy in meningitis outbreak next to waste site

Fears of fungal meningitis are rising daily with the increasing number of deaths and infections being reported across at least 10 states now.

The current death toll from the outbreak is 11, with 119 people sickened by the tainted steroid injections from the New England Compounding Center. The injection could have reached a total of 13,000 people, so the number of cases may rise.

Facing these concerns, the facility voluntarily surrendered its license to practice to the Massachusetts State Board of Pharmacy on Tuesday. Regulations over pharmacies vary state to state, and while the Massachusetts State Board of Pharmacy regulates the Center, the Food and Drug Administration has no authority over it.

Questions now remain over how the facility operates and could have allowed thousands of people to receive the contaminated medication. CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta went to the center in Massachusetts to find the answers. He joins Soledad O’Brien on “Starting Point” this morning to tell us what he found.

“They wouldn’t let us in the building. But behind the building,” Gupta says it looks like the NECC compounding facility is in front of a recycling facility, which “essentially looks like a dump.” “We realized, they’re in fact owned by the same people,” Dr. Gupta adds.

“Normally when you talk about sterile, good practices in these pharmacies, there’s some separation between these types of things,” Dr. Gupta says.

O’Brien asks why the FDA doesn’t have jurisdiction over such pharmacies and order a separation between the dump and the pharmacy.

“These compounding centers do not need to be accredited,” Dr. Gupta answers. “That’s a voluntary thing.” These centers can also go for years without an inspection after receiving a license to operate. “There’s one inspection at the beginning of the compounding center when they apply for the license, and then they only intervene if there are problems,” he adds.

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