Bishop lauds feds for creating meningitis victims fund

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The U.S. Department of Justice is creating a compensation fund for victims and families affected by the meningitis outbreak of 2012, U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop said Thursday.

The department on Wednesday set aside up to $40 million for victims who were injected with tainted steroids received from the now-defunct Massachusetts company called New England Compounding Center, according to the office of Bishop, R-Rochester.

The money comes from federal criminal fines, penalties and forfeited bail bonds — not any taxpayer dollars. Michigan was the hardest hit state with 264 cases and 19 deaths, which doesn’t include three more state residents who were diagnosed with fungal meningitis while in Indiana and died there.

Patients in 21 states, including Michigan, were given contaminated steroid injections that were distributed by the New England Compounding Center, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It resulted in 753 cases of fungal infections and 64 deaths nationwide.

“Every victim deserves an advocate. It’s been nearly four long years for these victims and their families, and now we’re finally getting some positive news,” Bishop said in a statement.

“While no one can undo the pain and suffering they have endured, we can stand up, fight and demand action. I’m grateful for the support of my colleagues in the House who have aided our efforts so far and remain hopeful that those impacted will get the much-needed help they deserve and soon.”

The meningitis outbreak involving NECC is the largest public health crisis caused by a drug in the country’s nation’s history, according to the CDC.

The creation of the compensation fund follows a March settlement of a $10.5 million class-action lawsuit involving more than 300 Michigan patients and survivors affected by the fungal meningitis outbreak. The settlement involved Michigan Pain Specialists in Genoa Township.

Advocates for victims of the fungal infections outbreak had been pressuring the Obama administration to approve compensation for people who were exposed to meningitis and other infections in 2012.

“The testimonials of those affected are heart-breaking,” Bishop wrote in a May 18 letter to the White House’s Office of Budget and Management that was also signed by 17 House colleagues.

The CDC and the Federal Drug Administration have said patients who received injections distributed by NECC “should remain vigilant for the signs and symptoms of infection, and contact their health care provider if they are concerned.”

klaing@detroitnews.com

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Twitter: @Keith_Laing