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New law provides more oversight for compounding pharmacies

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President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed a bill into law providing more federal scrutiny of compounding pharmacies that custom-mix medications in bulk.

The Associated Press reports the action comes in response to a fungal meningitis outbreak from contaminated steroid pain injections that killed 64 people and sickened more than 750. The tainted steroids were traced to the New England Compounding Center.

The outbreak was felt in Minnesota, where ultimately a dozen cases of meningitis and one death were linked to the tainted injections. Last March, a 23-year-old Brooklyn Park woman was the first to sue a Twin Cities pain clinic after developing meningitis from two steroid injections. Others soon followed with court action.

Reuters reports the new law, called the Drug Quality and Security Act, strengthens the ability of health regulators to track drugs through the distribution pipeline and clarifies the authority of the Food and Drug Administration over compounded medications. The law has support from medical professionals, in part because it will track prescription drugs throughout the supply chain.

This week, NBC News reported that a grand jury in Minnesota also has been conducting an investigation into the contamination cases. In addition, a federal grand jury in Boston has been investigating the New England Compounding Center for more than a year.

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