Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sale of Drug Compounder's Assets Sought, Minus Autoclave

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

A federal judge is being asked to authorize the sale and disposition of nearly all of the remaining assets of the drug compounding firm blamed for a nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak that killed 64 patients and sickened 751.
The request to sell most of the assets of the bankrupt New England Compounding Center was filed Monday even as more details were disclosed on an overall plan to compensate victims of the 2012 outbreak and their survivors.
A heavily redacted filing with some details of the bankruptcy plan was filed in the same pending case. Five of the seven pages in the document had all or some of their content blacked out. The actual plan is expected to be filed in the next few weeks, according to court testimony.
The filing describes a process under which appeals of individual victims' claims would be reviewed by federal Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal "according to specific criteria."
That criteria, which is not disclosed was "created with input from physicians who have treated hundreds of victims." 
The plan, court filings show, will include a matrix "designed to distinguish among the most serious and the less serious cases."
An Oct. 23 letter to Boal from the plaintiff's lawyers ask her to assume the role of considering any appeals to the awards. Her decisions would be final.
"Due to the limited funds that will be available," the filing states, "a primary goal was balancing the need to compensate distinctly situated claimants differently, while also minimizing the administrative expenses of reviewing and approving claims." 
As has been previously disclosed, those involved in the case expect that $100 million to $108 million will be available for a fund to compensate victims. Those funds, the filing states, will come from NECC's owners and insurance companies.
Additional funding could come from other sources such as health facilities where the victims were injected with fungus tainted methylprednisolone acetate.
Paul D. Moore, the trustee in the bankruptcy case, said in an email response to questions that the asset sale would not only produce additional income for victims, but also reduce expenses.
One exception in the disposal request is an autoclave, which two parties, including the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgical Center of Nashville, Tenn. and related parties have asked to be preserved for possible use in their defense.
Moore said in an email that if the order is approved, "it would permit me to me to sell or otherwise dispose of the property other than the autoclave."
 " It would be my goal to try to sell anything that would have any remaining value. Likewise, that would permit me to move out of the space or to consolidate the property that is out there in a smaller area and thereby reduce the monthly expense of maintaining it," Moore wrote.