Robert, who was enjoying his retirement, began suffering from neck pain following surgery in 2010. On September 26, 2012, he received an injection of methylprednisolone acetate at a clinic near his Bridgetown, NJ home in hopes of getting relief from his chronic pain. The next day, New England Compounding Center (NECC) based out of Framingham, Massachusetts, voluntarily recalled the steroid drug used in Robert’s injection. At the beginning of October 2012, Robert was admitted to the emergency room with complaints of fever, headache, nausea, and vomiting. To the devastation of his wife of nearly 40 years and his family, a battery of tests revealed that Robert had contracted fungal meningitis. Robert spent months in the care of hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. The over a million dollars in medical bills Robert has incurred continue to pile up as his health status remains highly unstable and his prognosis uncertain.
This is the story of the largest epidemic from a drug since the creation of the FDA in 1930. It will have tragic consequences for victims for years to come.
NECC, responsible for the manufacture of contaminated steroids that have caused an epidemic of fungal meningitis and other infections, filed a petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2012. As of November 2013, the CDC has linked over 750 cases of fungal meningitis, spinal infection (epidural abscess), stroke, or joint infection and 64 deaths to the contaminated products. Since the latency period for fungal meningitis is months or even years, the incidence is likely underreported.
NECC has limited insurance and assets, and some commentators expected the worst—victims receiving sparse compensation from the limited funds available.
Most lawyers respond to the notice of Chapter 11 proceedings with fear and trepidation of failure. Attorneys Anne Andrews and John C. Thornton—partners of Andrews & Thornton—are far more optimistic, based on their experience with bankruptcies. A decade ago, Andrews & Thornton represented injured victims in mass tort cases involving four bankruptcies, which revolutionized their view of bankruptcy. Bankruptcy law and procedure—when properly understood and utilized—can provide a framework for full and fair global tort claims resolution. This blog series will discuss the challenges and strategies in representing victims in the context of bankruptcy.
For more information on the fungal meningitis outbreak from contaminated NECC steroids, check out the Andrews & Thornton Blog section on The Fungal Meningitis Outbreak.