Owner of meningitis-linked pharmacy takes Fifth - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Owner of meningitis-linked pharmacy takes Fifth

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NEW YORK -

The owner of the company linked to the deadly fungal meningitis outbreak refused to answer questions on Capitol Hill.

"Mr. Chairman, on advice of counsel I respectfully decline to answer on the basis of my constitutional rights," Barry Cadden said.

Lawmakers subpoenaed Cadden, whose New England Compounding Center is accused of making contaminated steroid injections. The outbreak killed 32 people and sickened more than 400 others in 19 states.

One of those victims was retired Kentucky judge Eddie Lovelace, whose widow, Joyce, came to the congressional hearing looking for answers.

"My family is bitter," she said. "We are angry. We are heartbroken. We are devastated we are begging you to do something."

The meningitis outbreak is slowing down. Fewer new cases are being reported. About 14,000 people were thought to have been exposed.

The Massachusetts company had a well-documented history of problems. Nearly a decade ago, the Food and Drug Administration wanted to shut it down until it cleaned up its operations. Instead, the FDA deferred to state regulators who allowed it to stay open.

"It's possible this outbreak very well might have been prevented," said Rep. Cliff Stearns, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg says her agency needs more authority and funding to oversee compounding pharmacies.

"As it is, our authority over compounding is limited, unclear and contested," Hamburg said.

The New England Compounding Center is closed and officials are in the process of permanently revoking its license.

The Senate will hold its own investigative hearing Thursday.

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