Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Drug consultant to St. Thomas clinic in meningitis outbreak works for Vanderbilt May 14, 2013

A Vanderbilt pharmaceutical official was the mystery consultant utilized by St. Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center when it was deciding whether to procure the steroids from the Massachusetts drug compounding firm later blamed for a nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis that has killed 15 Tennessee patients.
Under a verbal order from Circuit Court Judge Joe P. Binkley Jr, lawyers for the neurosurgical center identified the consultant as Michael O’Neal of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The disclosure came during during a lengthy court hearing Tuesday but Binkley won’t decide until later this week whether the clinic must disclose the advice or information O’Neal passed along.
The answer may hinge on a series of contracts with the pharmacyconsultant dating back to 2007. Lawyers for the clinic were literally scrambling in and out of the courtroom Tuesday seeking documentation on the contracts.
The Tennessean’s attempts to reach O’Neal following the court hearing were unsuccessful. He is listed on the medical center website as a pharmacy manager.
Lawyers for the outpatient neurosurgical center had refused toanswer question about the consultant’s identity contending that his role at the center was protected by a two year-old law aimed at improving quality of care in licensed health facilities.
Binkley said he will hear additional arguments on whether the advice from O’Neal also must be disclosed Thursday. The dispute comes in one of a series of suits brought by victims of the meningitis outbreak
During the session Binkley also ruled that the St. Thomas outpatient center must turn over to the lawyers for Wayne Reed various documents and photos relating to the clinic. They were also ordered to review and prepare for release thousands of emails sent or received by key figures at the clinic, including the medical director and manager.
Binkley told Chris Tardio, the clinic’s lawyer, to do his best on compiling the emails and other data prior to a scheduled three-day deposition session in early Jume.
Tardio had protested that the requests for information from Reed’s lawyers, George Nolan and William Leader were too voluminous and burdensone.
“I don’t think filing a lawsuit gives a plaintiff the right to unlimited access,” Tardio said in response to a request for five years worth of board meeting minutes.
Binkley, however, concluded the minutes should be provided and he rejected a request by Tardio and his colleagues to limit the upcoming depositions to three seven-hour sessions, one each for the three witnesses.
The lawyers for both sides compromised on some of the remaining discovery disputes and deferred on still others. But Nolan insisted compromise was not possible on some issues such as determining whether there was an “undue delay” of three days between the shutdown of the clinic and the effort to notify potential victims.
quoted from here

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