Wednesday, October 31, 2012

ADVISORY: Markey to Announce Plan on Nov. 1st to Address Compounding Pharmacy Regulation

Lawmaker to outline legislative proposal, actions needed to address “regulatory black hole” of compounding pharmacy oversight

MEDFORD, MA. – With the meningitis outbreak death toll reaching 29 and 377 more sickened by injectable steroids manufactured at the New England Compounding Center (NECC), Rep. Markey will outline a legislative strategy to strengthen the regulations that govern compounding pharmacies and protect patients. Rep. Markey has been the Congressional leader in investigating the tragedy and addressing the “regulatory black hole” that currently governs the compounding pharmacy industry. Earlier this week, Rep. Markey released the report “Compounding Pharmacies, Compounding Risk”, which revealed that even before the current outbreak, problems at compounding pharmacies led to at least 23 deaths and 86 illnesses in 34 states. 

WHAT: Press conference announcing compounding pharmacy legislation
WHO: Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and dean of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation
WHEN: Thursday, November 1, 2012, 1 PM
WHERE: Framingham, Massachusetts

Who Should Regulate Drug Compounding?

By , GuideOctober 31, 2012
Trick question.

But Congress may become bent on answering in a way that could fundamentally change how pharmacy is practiced and overseen.

Harsh punishments rare for drug compounding mistakes

  • The FDA recorded about 200 "adverse events" linked to 71 compounded products since 1990
  • Lawsuits are frequently tougher than regulators
  • Criminal investigations are rare
4:55PM EDT October 31. 2012 - WASHINGTON -- The legal landscape is littered with charges of negligence and misconduct by compounding pharmacies such as the one implicated in the nation's ongoing meningitis outbreak, but they rarely result in tough punishments, an examination of legal records shows.
In some cases, there's almost no penalty for pharmacies that break the rules, and the people who run them simply continue with business as usual, sometimes with tragic results.
Compounding pharmacies, which mix specialized and hard-to-get medications from raw ingredients, have been tied repeatedly to illness outbreaks -- the Food and Drug Administration has recorded about 200 "adverse events" linked to 71 compounded products since 1990. Some of those cases were eerily similar to the current meningitis episode, which has killed 28 so far.
USA TODAY reviewed state and federal court records, investigative reports and regulatory actions on dozens of cases in which compounding pharmacies produced contaminated or adulterated medication, mismeasured dosages, or manufactured and distributed drugs that were counterfeit or illegal. In many cases, it wasn't regulatory action that shut down those operations; it was damage awards they couldn't afford to pay.
The lightly regulated businesses have been linked through the years in government investigations to high-profile steroids scandals in sports and major tragedies involving veterinary drugs.
Through them all, there's a pattern: When a compounding pharmacy commits serious transgressions -- wrongs that endanger lives or involve large-scale criminal conspiracies -- the regulatory sanctions often are minimal. Tougher punishments frequently come in the form of personal injury lawsuits, which can elicit court-ordered penalties far more potent than, say, the suspension of a pharmacy's license.
Civil lawsuits are a powerful tool "to make sure the most dangerous compounding pharmacies are forced out of business," says Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice & Democracy at New York Law School. "Nothing else seems to be doing it … because the entire regulatory system lacks teeth."
At least three personal injury lawsuits have been filed against the Framingham, Mass.-based New England Compounding Center, which state and federal investigators have identified as the chief suspect in the current meningitis outbreak. With more than 300 illnesses in at least 16 states, more claims are sure to follow.
The investigators have linked the outbreak to fungal contamination in injectable steroids that were produced by NECC and administered to an estimated 14,000 people for back pain. Last week, the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Pharmacy permanently revoked NECC's state operating license, as well as the licenses of its three chief pharmacists, after documenting multiple problems with sanitary conditions and quality control at NECC's facility.
But that's the board's only bullet: Like many state pharmacy boards that regulate compounding operations, the Massachusetts panel has no power to issue fines for wrongdoing. Because compounding pharmacies produce medications outside the strict federal regulations that govern traditional drug manufacturers, the FDA has limited authority over them.
Criminal penalties are possible -- criminal investigators from the U.S. Justice Department and the FDA are involved in the NECC probe. But such prosecutions are extremely rare, in part because the law makes it very difficult to hold pharmacists criminally liable for problems with the drugs they produce or dispense.
Even state license revocations are rare: Among cases reviewed by USA TODAY, the NECC closure was the only time a state revoked a compounding pharmacy's license permanently. (Neither NECC nor its pharmacists have appealed the license revocations, though that option remains.)
"Clearly, (states) have the authority," to shut down a bad operator," says Sarah Sellers, a former FDA compliance official. "Whether they have the political will and the resources to pursue those cases is a question in my mind."
Sellers, who now runs Q-Vigilance, a drug-safety consulting firm, says she doesn't ever recall seeing another case in which a state shut down a compounding pharmacy permanently. She believes that might be due partly to the fact that state pharmacy boards often have members who operate or have interests in compounding pharmacies.
"If there is conflict of interest at the state level, that may be a contributing factor in the lack of enforcement," Sellers says.
Warnings in an earlier outbreak
In the fall of 2002, a spate of meningitis cases began cropping up in hospitals and clinics in North Carolina. In many respects, it was strikingly similar to today's outbreak: All the patients were sickened by a rare fungus after getting treated with an injectable steroid produced by an out-of-state compounding pharmacy. Even the drug was the same: methylprednisolone acetate.
When state and federal investigators inspected the facility where the drug was prepared, Urgent Care Pharmacy in neighboring South Carolina, they found faulty sterilization equipment and inadequate sanitary and quality-control practices. When they tested unopened vials of the suspect medication, they also found the fungus.
The pharmacy was ordered to stop selling the contaminated drug immediately, state investigation records show. Warnings went to 11 states where hospitals and clinics had gotten drug shipments from the facility. Several victims were hospitalized; one woman died.
The South Carolina Board of Pharmacy directed Urgent Care to halt work until it corrected major deficiencies in its sterile practices and oversight of technicians. Exercising an authority many pharmacy boards lack, the panel also levied a $10,000 fine and suspended the license of the pharmacist in charge.
Facing lawsuits from more than a half-dozen people who claimed injuries from the contaminated injections, Urgent Care declared bankruptcy three months later. But the pharmacist who managed the operation moved on and now works at a different South Carolina pharmacy. Reached at that store, he declined to comment.
In the same order that suspended the pharmacist, the board immediately issued a "stay" of that action. He was allowed to continue practicing pharmacy on a probationary basis, provided he pass a competency exam and refrain from compounding. Today, his licensure record shows that he continues to work and lists him "in good standing" with "no disciplinary action."
"The regulatory system failed," says Forest Horne, a Raleigh, N.C.-based lawyer who won a damage award of about $1 million for the family of the woman who died in the meningitis outbreak. "If that guy is able to go back and work in a pharmacy … I think the regulatory system is not working, because the conditions in that plant were absolutely abysmal.
"If these people aren't stopped through litigation," Horne adds, "they're not going to be stopped."
Dead horses and more lawsuits
But litigation can take years, and it doesn't always succeed.
In April 2009, 21 polo horses from a Venezuela-based team died while preparing to compete at the U.S. Open Polo Championship in Wellington, Fla. The deaths later were attributed to a medication that was mixed incorrectly by Franck's Pharmacy, a high-volume compounding operation that, like many, prepared veterinary drugs in addition to human medications.
Franck's acknowledged the dosing error even before federal investigators confirmed it, and owners of the horses filed a lawsuit seeking more than $4 million in damages from the pharmacy. But that case remains unresolved and is scheduled for a jury trial early next year.
After the horses' death, the FDA also filed suit against Franck's, contending its operations should be halted because it was acting as a drug manufacturer, using bulk ingredients to produce drugs on a large scale. As a manufacturer, Franck's would need FDA approval and be subject to agency inspections for compliance with strict federal rules on safety and quality.
But the court ruled that the pharmacy was within the boundaries of compounding, a centuries-old practice that focuses on mixing specialty medications that aren't available commercially. Franck's remained under the supervision of Florida's board of pharmacy. After reprimanding and fining Franck's in the horse incident, the board allowed it to continue operating in good standing.
It wasn't long before the pharmacy was tied to more problems.
In November, 2011, weeks after the FDA lost its case, a rare fungal infection began cropping up in the eyes of patients who had received ocular injections of a special dye used in eye surgery. A subsequent state/federal investigation conducted earlier this year linked the infections to contamination in vials of the dye prepared by Franck's.

States Crack Down on Compound Pharmacies Amid Meningitis Outbreak

By: Irvin Jackson | Published: October 31st, 2012
States appear to be cracking down on compounding pharmacies nationwide, in the wake of a meningitis outbreak linked to contaminated steroid injections that were mixed by a Massachusetts pharmacy and shipped to medical providers throughout the United States.
Compounding pharmacies are designed to supply local health care facilities with tailor-made drugs for specific patients. However, the New England Compounding Center (NECC), which recalled more than 17,000 vials of steroid injections believed to be contaminated with fungus, employed sales representatives throughout the United States and distributed medications to facilities in at least 23 states.
According to the latest update on the meningitis outbreak linked to the NECC compounding pharmacy, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that illnesses have been confirmed in 19 different states, including 363 cases of fungal meningitis, 7 joint infections and 28 deaths.
State and federal regulators have faced substantial criticism for lax enforcement of quality control standards at compounding pharmacies and for failing to take steps that may have prevented the meningitis outbreak.

Enforcement Against Other Compounding Pharmacies

A long history of problems at NECC have now been identified, including failure to maintain a controlled clean room to reduce the risk of microbial contamination during the processing of drugs and a failure to ensure that medications were safe before they were distributed.
Since the outbreak, NECC has surrendered its license and now faces a criminal investigation in Massachusetts, potential federal charges and a number of product liability and class action lawsuits over the recalled steroid injections.
Other compounding pharmacies are now starting to see stronger enforcement actions by state regulatory agencies, which many believe are long-overdue in the industry.

Continue reading here

Illnesses from meningitis outbreak rise to 377; deaths at 29

Ameridose recalls all drugs after FDA finds problems with its sterility testing

Ameridose recalls all drugs after FDA finds problems with its sterility testing

US Rep. Edward Markey readies justification for expanded FDA regulation of compounding pharmacies

October 31, 2012
In the wake of NECC meningitis scandal, a Congressional report documents a decade of regulatory 'gaps' in protecting public health
News reports over the past month fill in a grim picture of the poor manufacturing practices at New England Compounding Center (NECC; Framingham, MA), the pharmacy at the center of the expanding scandal over contaminated dosages of a steroid, methylprednisolone acetate, that has now caused 25 deaths and 314 cases of fungal meningitis, among over 17,000 units of the drug that have been shipped nationally during the past half-year. While FDA and Massachusetts authorities continue to investigate the now-shuttered plant, Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) has issued a report on FDA efforts, the constraints it operates under in litigation with pharmacy associations, and the “lax” enforcement of most state boards of pharmacy. Earlier in the month, Markey indicated his intent to propose new legislation  to address this regulatory impasse, although the bill has not yet been introduced.
The Markey report, “Compounding Pharmacies, Compounding Risks,” documents 23 deaths and at least 86 serious illnesses since June 2001 involving compounding pharmacies nationally (these do not include the recent NECC case). A 1997 federal law was overturned, partially, in subsequent litigation that had carried through to 2008, after which FDA conceded most enforcement responsibility to state boards of pharmacy. But, based on a search of publicly available documents at these boards, Markey’s investigators found that they “do not, as a general rule, appear to undertake enforcement actions that relate to the safety or scopy of compounding pharmacies,” and that “it is impossible to conclude … that the safety of pharmacy compounding activities has been or can be sufficiently assured” through the boards. While FDA has issued warning letters to more than 50 compounding facilities in 34 states between 2003 and March 2012, only six states have taken enforcement actions over that time period.
Coincidentally, an industry publication, Pharmacy Purchasing and Products (; registration required) published in its October issue a second annual survey of compliance practices with the USP General Chapter <797>, which is the usual reference to proper procedures for compounding sterile preparations (CSPs).  <797> is up for revision in 2013 under the USP guidance development process. The survey, which solicited voluntary responses (which ultimately came mostly from hospital pharmacies), paints a picture of gradual improvement in compliance practices—but one that is far from universally adhered. Overall, respondents reported an average 77.7% level of compliance. The most common shortcomings were in performing environmental sampling programs (within the working space of the compounding area) and then developing corrective actions when deficiencies were found. Respondents also noted that “financial/budgetary restrictions” were the most common reason for less-than-complete compliance.

It’s hard to say how that 77.7% figure matches up with actual performance industry-wide, since the survey is not a representative one. Still, a sense that compliance is achieved in roughly only three out of four instances—especially at hospital pharmacies where a higher level of oversight might be expected—is a shockingly low expectation. Not only are compounding pharmacies regulated by different means than manufacturers, but they also appear to be held to a lower standard of performance.
Source found here

The Oliver Law Group Alleges New England Compounding Pharmacy Tied to Meningitis Outbreak Had Insider on Pharmacy Board Appointed by Governor Romney

October 31, 2012 1:48 PM EDT
Records Reflect Insider Was Involved in Government Policy Allowing Company to Continue Despite Multiple Violations
ROCHESTER, Mich.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Alyson Oliver, a Michigan attorney representing several injured victims of the fungal meningitis outbreak and the lead attorney in the effort to consolidate the fungal meningitis cases nationally continues to uncover serious concerns about how the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Pharmacy (BRPh) conducted business and specifically how it dealt with complaints against the New England Compounding Center (NECC) during former Governor Mitt Romney’s administration.
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Klaserner v. New England Compounding Pharmacy, Inc.

Klaserner v. New England Compounding Pharmacy, Inc.

Adkins et al v. New England Compounding Pharmacy, Inc.

Adkins et al v. New England Compounding Pharmacy, Inc.

Meningitis outbreak: 2nd Mass. pharmacy recalls all products

12:31 PM, Oct 31, 2012

A Massachusetts drug firm linked by common ownership to the company blamed for an ongoing nationwide meningitis outbreak has announced a massive recall of all its products.
In a statement released today, Ameridose disclosed that it had initiated a voluntary recall of all its products.
Ameridose is owned by the same two families that own New England Compounding Center, which issued thousands of doses of a spinal steroid tainted with fungus. The drugs have caused 28 deaths, including 11 in Tennessee.
In announcing the recall, Ameridose said that it came after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration raised questions about the company’s sterility testing process. Ameridose, which supplies hospitals in Tennessee, already had halted production at its Westborough, Mass., plant.
“This action is voluntary and represents an expansion of our cooperation with the FDA and the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Pharmacy,” the company stated.
“Ameridose has not received any adverse reports related to the products subject to this recall and neither Ameridose nor the FDA has identified impurities in any Ameridose products,” the statement continued.
Contact Walter F. Roche Jr. at 615-259-8086
Source found here

Mass. firm tied to closed pharmacy issues recall - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 -

Mass. firm tied to closed pharmacy issues recall - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 -

Can a Doctor Be Liable Under Federal False Claims Act for Prescribing a Drug Off-Label?

The theory of the plaintiff (in a qui tam suit the proper nomenclature is "the relator") in United States ex rel. Watson v. King-Vassel et al, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 152496 (E.D. Wisconsin Oct. 23, 2012), is that a doctor can be liable under the False Claims Act for prescribing a drug off-label.  The court ends up dismissing the case.

For a complete summary of this case read the Drug and Device Blog found here

CDC: Continuing to see meningitis cases | Watch the video -

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Meningitis outbreak: 89 Maryland hospitals bought tainted drugs

October 31, 2012 - 11:32 am

The Food and Drug Administration has released a new list that names 89 hospitals in Maryland that bought tainted drugs from a pharmacy linked to a deadly nationwide meningitis outbreak.
According to the Baltimore Sun, in total, the list names more than 3,000 facilities that received the medication, produced by New England Compounding Center, a specialty pharmacy in Massachusetts, which is being blamed for 354 cases in 19 states and at least 25 deaths.
The new list includes University of Maryland Medical Center, Mercy Medical Center, Saint Joseph Medical Center, Northwest Hospital and Katzen Eye Group, among others, the Sunreports.
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Despite bacteria in labs, a clean pharmacy report Drug firm found contaminants, gave assurances

By Kay Lazar

| Globe Staff October 31, 2012

Shortly before a national fungal meningitis outbreak was linked to New England Compounding Center, the Framingham company sent customers a “Quality Assurance Report Card” trumpeting the cleanliness of its labs, even as internal tests showed widespread contamination.
Charts sent to customers and obtained by the Globe show that in the first half of 2012, there were no instances of contamination exceeding the accepted standard on surfaces in the “clean rooms,” where the company produced sterile injectable medications such as the steroid now linked to 28 deaths.
But during that same period, the company’s own internal testing showed that 33 surface samples from the clean rooms contained bacteria or mold at levels requiring corrective action to remove contamination, according to company records. These test results were disclosed in a report released Friday by federal investigators.
Pharmacy and laboratory safety consultants said New England Compounding’s report card, sent to the Globe from a hospital that bought from the pharmacy, directly contradicts the findings of the company’s internal testing. The hospital provided the pharmacy report card on the condition it not be identified.
Continue reading the Boston Globe article here 

Missouri has available compounding reports for 2005-2009 on-line

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mass adds more inspectors and ask board member to step down

Read the story here

DeLauro Response to Closure of Second MA Compounding Pharmacy

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Will Introduce Legislation Strengthening Federal Oversight Next Month
NEW HAVEN, CT—Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) released the following statement today on the news a Waltham, Massachusetts compounding pharmacy has been shut down after an unannounced inspection.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that problems with compounding pharmacies are not restricted to the New England Compounding Center. Now that another pharmacy has been found to be both acting beyond its license and producing drugs in an unsuitable environment, the need for congressional action is more pronounced than ever. Quite simply, this is about life or death and we cannot risk any more lives. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address this issue and protect patient health.”
DeLauro is a senior member of the committee responsible for funding the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). She has announced plans to introduce legislation next month that will strengthen the FDA’s hand in licensing and overseeing compounding pharmacies. Over 300 people are ill and 28 dead in 19 states due to the current regulatory patchwork system supervising these pharmacies.

Repost 7/1/2012: The Role and Education of the Veterinary Pharmacist

A interesting article entitled, The Role and Education of the Veterinary Pharmacist, Am. J. Pharm. Educ. 2009 February 19; 73(1): 16, notes that the practice of veterinary pharmacy is an emerging field in the United States.  That entire article can be read by clicking here.

Food and Drugs Authority warns public vs online pharmacies | Sun.Star

Food and Drugs Authority warns public vs online pharmacies | Sun.Star

US meningitis outbreak not affecting Canadians, Health Canada says

US meningitis outbreak not affecting Canadians, Health Canada says

Insurance Policies Favoring Compounded Drugs For High-Risk Pregnancies Draw Scrutiny

OCT 30, 2012
When a brand-name drug to help prevent premature births was approved last year, its $1,500-a-dose-price alarmed state and private sector insurance officials.
Many restricted use of the FDA-approved Makena in favor of $20- to $40-a-dose versions that had been made for years by pharmacies, saying that would give more women access to the treatment. Federal officials, sympathetic to such arguments, allowed the pharmacies to continue making the unapproved drugs.

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NC Board of Pharmacy to create special committee to study...

NC Board of Pharmacy to create special committee to study...

Zoeller: Suspend License Of Pharmacy That Produced Tainted Steroids

Last updated on Tuesday, October 30, 2012
(INDIANAPOLIS) - Attorney General Greg Zoeller wants the Indiana Pharmacy Board to suspend the license of a questionable Massachusetts pharmacy.
The pharmacy is linked to the meningitis outbreak. Zoeller filed an emergency petition Friday.
He says the New England Compounding Center produced the tainted steroid that has been linked to fungal meningitis.
The non-resident pharmacy distributes its products in Indiana and has already suspended operations.
The Indiana Department of Health says the state now has 43 cases and three deaths stemming from the nationwide outbreak. Zoeller says the NECC presents an immediate danger to public health and safety.
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Insurer Sues Compounding Pharmacy over Coverage for Fungi-Contaminated Injection Claims

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OCALA, Fla. — Evanston Insurance Co. has filed a federal lawsuit requesting a ruling that it has no obligation to defend a Florida-based compounding pharmacy against claims by individuals who were allegedly infected by fungus-contaminated injections.
The lawsuit, filed Oct. 26 in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, alleges that coverage of at least seven claims and two underlying personal injury suits against Franck’s Lab Inc. is barred by a mold and fungi exclusion contained in policies it sold the company and its related entities.

Compounding Pharmacies Feeling the Effects of NECC's Errors Meningitis Outbreak Spurs Actions by States

By  | Yahoo! Contributor Network – 1 hr 9 mins ago

Closing the barn door after the horse has escaped doesn't help those it might encounter, but it does protect people from the many other horses that remain in the barn. This is analogous to what's going on with compounding pharmacies in Florida and Massachusetts, now that the unsanitary conditions of the New England Compounding Center , NECC, have been linked to the current fungal meningitis outbreak.
Massachusetts Takes Action Against Compounding Pharmacies
The New York Times reported that after Massachusetts' health officials performed surprise inspections at some of the compounding pharmacies located in the state, the Waltham, Massachusetts-based Infusion Resource voluntarily surrendered its license over the weekend. The license surrender followed an Oct. 23 inspection that found the environment in which medications were being made revealed sanitation issues and perhaps as importantly, this pharmacy had been administering intravenous medications to patients, a clear violation of their license.
Infusion Resource is the third compounding pharmacy in the state to have its license suspended.
Florida Takes Action Against Compounding Pharmacy
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Pharmacy-made pregnancy drug under scrutiny after meningitis outbreak

By Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News
When a brand-name drug to help prevent premature births was approved last year, its $1,500-a-dose-price alarmed state and private sector insurance officials.
Many restricted use of the FDA-approved Makena in favor of $20- to $40-a-dose versions that had been made for years by pharmacies, saying that would give more women access to the treatment. Federal officials, sympathetic to such arguments, allowed the pharmacies to continue making the unapproved drugs.
But those decisions are now getting a second look following a deadly meningitis outbreak linked to a different pharmacy-made drug that has sickened hundreds of people and killed more than 25. No one has been reported injured by the pregnancy drug knockoffs. But the judgments made about Makena offer a window into the difficult tradeoffs between cost, safety and access sometimes confronted by policymakers and insurers at a time of growing angst over drug prices.
continue reading article here

House Dem slams drug compounders in new report

By Elise Viebeck 10/29/12 12:24 PM ET
Compounding pharmacies were responsible for deaths before the current outbreak of meningitis, one House Democrat charged Monday. 

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) released a report that chronicles the rise of compounders, which remix medicines for patients with special needs, and the patchwork of regulations that applies to them. 

Markey's report alleges that at least 23 patients have died and 86 have been seriously sickened or injured as a result of medications distributed by compounding pharmacies in recent decades. 

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Official: Tainted steriods have Arizona connection

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More Bad News For Waltham Compounding Pharmacy Infusion Resource was recently shut down after a state inspection.

By Ryan Grannan-Doll

Infusion Resource was shut down on Sunday, Oct. 28 after state inspectors found issues that could impact the cleanliness of its products, according to WCVB. The company was also administering intravenous medications without the proper license. 
The compnay has recalled the products it shipped in the past month, according to WCVB.
The news comes after a Framingham firm was shut down recenlty after it was linked to the meningitis outbreak. Infusion Resource is not liked to the outbreak.
Source found here