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Meningitis outbreak sparks call for FDA action

Updated:

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal is calling for stronger government oversight of so-called "compounding pharmacies" amid a meningitis outbreak in several states that has killed seven people.

The Connecticut Democrat said Sunday that he will be writing to U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to ask for stricter scrutiny of such pharmacies. He said the facilities appear to operate in a "regulatory black hole" and are only marginally overseen by the FDA.

Federal officials have linked the outbreak to a steroid for back pain produced by the New England Compounding Center in Framingham. Ninety-one people in nine states have contracted fungal meningitis.

The New England Compounding Center announced a voluntary recall of all its products on Saturday. The company said in a news release that the move was taken out of an abundance of caution because of the risk of contamination. It says there is no indication that any other products have been contaminated.

The Food and Drug Administration had previously told health professionals not to use any products distributed by the center.

Blumenthal says he will be proposing more authority for the FDA in such cases, if needed.