Judge Orders Pharmacy Linked to Meningitis Deaths to Stop Mixing Drugs
A state administrative judge in Oakland ruled on Friday that the Walnut Creek-based pharmacist "whose drugstore sold medicine linked to the deaths of three people and the hospitalization of 10 more must temporarily stop making and mixing drugs," Knight-Ridder/San Jose Mercury News reports. Judge Ruth Astle said that the restrictions on Doc's Pharmacy and its owner, Rob Horwitz, would be effective until a full hearing is held on Aug. 8, when the state will likely seek to shut down the pharmacy. Between May 22 and 31, several patients received from the pharmacy injections of the anti-inflammatory steroid betamethasone that were tainted with the bacteria that cause meningitis. Five people contracted the disease, three of whom died. Ten additional people were hospitalized, and 25 others "are receiving follow-up care to ensure they don't get the disease" (Fernandez, Knight-Ridder/San Jose Mercury News, 7/7). According to court records filed by the state attorney general's office, the pharmacy improperly labeled the medicine, and "poorly trained employees ... mix[ed] drugs using contaminated work stations and equipment" (Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/7). "This behavior was a gross departure from the standard of care," Deputy Attorney General Lloyd Paris said (Knight-Ridder/San Jose Mercury News, 7/7). However, Lee Archer, Horwitz's attorney, said that "it is still unclear how the medication became contaminated." He added that the court order for the pharmacy to stop "compounding" medicines -- Doc's is still allowed to dispense "commercially prepared" drugs -- is "unnecessary" because Horwitz has voluntary stopped mixing medicines. He also said the court order will negatively affect Contra Costa County residents because they will now have to travel farther to obtain compounded medicines. So far, four people who received the tainted steroid have filed suits against Horwitz, and more cases are expected (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.