Monday, September 14, 2015
Tennessee Health Officials Provide Outbreak Victims List
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Acting under a federal judge's order, Tennessee Health Department officials have turned over the official list of Tennessee victims of the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak to officials overseeing claims filed for a share of a $200 million trust fund.
Release of the list was authorized last week in a three-page order issued by U.S. District Judge Rya W. Zobel following a hearing on a series of civil suits stemming from the outbreak.
Woody McMillin, spokesman for the Tennessee health agency said late Monday that the list had been provided as ordered.
Under Zobel's order the list will be used by the national settlement administrator, who is handling claims for the trust fund, and an appeals administrator, who will process appeals of those initial awards.
Noting that the records contain personal health information protected under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, Zobel ordered that the protected information cannot be released to any other parties.
Under the qualified protective order the settlement administrator and the appeals administrator will have access to the list "for the sole purpose of facilitating the claims resolution process."
The $200 million trust fund was created as part of a liquidation plan approved in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The funding came from the owners of the drug compounding company blamed for the 2012 outbreak, related parties and insurance companies.
State and federal regulators named the New England Compounding Center as the source of fungus tainted drugs that caused the outbreak.
Tennessee and federal health officials have reported that 153 Tennessee patients were sickened in the outbreak. Sixteen of them died.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 751 patients were sickened nationwide and 64 died.
Subsequent to the CDC count, federal prosecutors reported additional illnesses and deaths pushing the total of patients sickened to 778 and deaths to 76. The location of those additional illnesses and deaths, however, have never been disclosed.