Inside the family firm linked to meningitis outbreak

(CBS News) Another patient injected with a tainted steroid has died of meningitis. More than 300 cases have now been reported in 17 states -- and the Centers for Disease Control says the outbreak is spreading.

Federal and state officials have opened investigations into New England Compounding Center, the pharmacy believed to have shipped thousands of vials of a steroid used in clinics to treat pain.

In many cases, the drug was contaminated with a deadly fungus which one investigator said was visible to the naked eye in some of the vials.

Massachusetts state officials received a complaint last March about the company that produced the tainted steroids linked to the deadly meningitis outbreak.

But health officials in Massachusetts say they conducted what's called an "off-site" inspection of the New England Compounding Center, or a review of documents.

The FDA has released a list of NECC's customers. They include somewhere near 3,000 doctors and hospitals around the country. One Denver-area hospital filed a cease-and-desist letter in 2011 alleging the company sent compounded drugs into Colorado without valid prescriptions.

In 2004, state and federal authorities inspected NECC after what was called an adverse event involving methylprednisolone acetate, the same steroid linked to the current outbreak.

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Black fungus specks in vials among complaints at New England Compounding Center

NECC is a family business that started in 1998. Greg Conigliaro holds four titles: vice president, treasurer, secretary and director. He started the company with his brother-in-law, Barry Cadden, who holds three titles: head pharmacist, president and also director.

Cadden met his wife, Lisa Conigliaro, in pharmacy school in the late 1980s. She's Greg's sister and also a director.

NECC is one of a dozen companies owned by the Conigliaros. Dr. Douglas Conigliaro, another brother, runs one of them, Medical Sales Management, which oversees the sales force for NECC.

According to Dr. Madeleine Biondolillo, who is leading the NECC investigation, the probe also extends to NECC's business practices and the environmental conditions surrounding the business, including the presence of a nearby recycling center that shares ownership with NECC.

The recycling business, Conigliaro Industries, operates in the same building as NECC. In 2003, it was cited for violations, including accumulation of combustibles creating a hazard.

In a statement, NECC said that throughout its entire history, the company has always demonstrated a good-faith compliance with the requirements of its license.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.

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